‘We risked lives’ to stop flooding

(l-r) Dean Clarke, Dawn Dixon, Sue Bradshaw, Veronica Skelton, Steve Mosley, Pete Bradshaw and Les Parker, all residents of Low Valley are angry about the lack of action by councillors during the recent flooding. Picture: Andrew Roe

(l-r) Dean Clarke, Dawn Dixon, Sue Bradshaw, Veronica Skelton, Steve Mosley, Pete Bradshaw and Les Parker, all residents of Low Valley are angry about the lack of action by councillors during the recent flooding. Picture: Andrew Roe

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OVER 100 people were at a meeting this week to voice anger over flood management issues at Wombwell.

Officers from Barnsley Council and the Environment Agency were told how Low Valley residents “risked their lives” on July 6, when they formed a human chain by the River Dove armed only with aquasacks, while others piled sandbags at the ‘dogleg’.

One woman spoke of how people terrified of a repeat of 2007, were “almost dragged down” as they tried to protect properties.

“How do we protect ourselves as instructed?” she asked Monday’s meeting. “We have no storage room for sand but we can’t rely on the Council or builders’ merchants to supply it in times of need.

“The services aren’t there to enable us to help ourselves!”

People who live on and around Stonyford Road pelted questions at Dave Pownall, the head of network management at Barnsley Council, at Coun Roy Miller, cabinet member for the environment, and Tony Deakin, an area flood risk manager for the Environment Agency.

But the public meeting could offer little reassurance. It was called by the area’s flood committee in the wake of July 6 this year, when one home, and many gardens and outbuildings flooded despite £250,000 spent on clearance work and the installation of Gabian baskets in the River Dove over five years.

Residents have campaigned tirelessly for a flood wall, after 180 homes flooded in June, 2007.

Mr Pownall said that a bid for national funding from the EA could lead to a future flood alleviation scheme, backed by a cash injection from a developer building homes to the rear of Stonyford Road. Low Valley is rated a second priority within Yorkshire and Humberside bidding, he explained, so the Council has “high hopes”. However, a decision will not be made until next Spring.

A total of 32 flood ‘hotspots’ are identified within the borough for immediate attention on alerts, he added.

Mr Deakin said it was only possible to reduce a risk of flooding, adding: “There will never be a guarantee of no floods.”

Residents questioned the absence of Barnsley Council’s floods officer Derek Bell on July 6, but Mr Pownall said childcare issues had prevented Mr Bell attending the incident room manned by 28 personnel.

It was revealed that 451 calls were made to the Council over the weekend of July 6 to 8, as compared to 7,500 in June 2007.

Residents went home disconsolate - one said he would not pay his council tax again. Pauline Barratt of Stonyford Road asked if residents could labour themselves to build a wall, and save costs?

But all Mr Deakin could advise was for people to sign up to the flood warning system, to ensure time to act before waters hit in times of crisis.