Terrified families hit by severe floods warn it will happen again
- Credit: Danielle Booden
Families who found their homes knee-deep in water last Christmas after torrential downpours say they're terrified another catastrophe is looming.
Jon Riley was one of dozens of Horsford villagers living in Beckside and Coltsfoot Road bogged down by floodwaters on December 23 last year.
The flooding ruined homes, drowned gardens and forced some people in to temporary accommodation for months on end.
Fire crews were called to manage the chaos while neighbours chipped in to help evacuate the worst-affected villagers.
An investigation into the flooding by Norfolk County Council has recently revealed that heavy downpours overloading weak drainage systems were to blame.
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The report has recommended landowners, Anglian Water and Highways work together to identify how the situation can be improved — but 46-year-old Mr Riley says it is "too little too late".
He explained: "What good is a report nine months down the line when people's homes were ruined last year?
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"We've had no support whatsoever. All the councils are passing the buck and leaving private homeowners to deal with this themselves.
"Nobody has asked us how we are. I've had no knocks on the door telling me what I supposedly need to do as a homeowner before winter arrives and the problem starts all over again.
"The report also fails to acknowledge all the other aspects of the problem beyond drainage systems alone."
Mr Riley also claims that "intense development of this area with new housing estates means there's no where for the excess water to run off to" - this is denied by Broadland District Council.
"The beck is never cleared either, so all the debris on either side gets picked up in the floodwater and ends up at our front doors," he added.
"It's madness. People are absolutely terrified."
In response, Norfolk County Council said it had investigated more than 350 reports of flooding from last winter and had a £1.5m flood reserve fund to support urgent works and repairs.
A Broadland Council spokesman, meanwhile, rejected the idea that overdevelopment is part of the problem, saying all planning applications were assessed in line with guidance for flood risk and drainage.
Chris Brown, Horsford Parish Council chairman, said in response to the accusations: "It's not true that we are ignoring parishioners.
"Last year when the flooding happened, we provided families with sandbags, and we're keeping pressure on Highways. But this is their responsibility, not ours.
"I understand residents are frustrated, but well, you sort of forget about flooding in the summer months, don't you?
"Now it's back on the agenda we are taking steps to address the situation.
"Anyone concerned should be coming along to parish council meetings — then they'll be able to see what the parish council IS doing to help."
A spokeswoman for Anglia Water said it was working closely with the Norfolk Strategic Flood Alliance to investigate long-term flooding solutions across an initial selection of 16 pinch-point flooding sites.
Horsford is not listed among these, but the spokeswoman said a second batch of sites were being added to the action plan in due course.
And it's not just in Horsford where locals are worried.
Thorpe End is often battered by floodwaters during heavy rain — as is Sprowston.
One person living in Thorpe, who did not want to be named, said locals now know which roads to avoid altogether in the wet weather.
Michelle Garrod, salon owner of Aspire Hair in Cannerby Lane, Sprowston, said businesses in her parts were likewise starting to feel anxious ahead of the winter weather.
She explained: "Whenever it rains the street just floods because the drains can't cope.
"The heavy rain on Sunday already left a whole load of sewage, toilet paper and sanitary material lying out on the pavements.
"All the businesses here have sandbags, but it's a big worry for us whenever we hear rain is on the way.
"The council has invested lots of money in new drainage in the common area, but even that's not enough to stop the flooding."
Norwich underwater: A throwback to flooding last Christmas
Over Christmas last year, Norwich was practically underwater. Nine warnings were in place across Norfolk and Waveney and Storm Bella was giving the county a kicking.
People were forced out of their homes by severe flash flooding blighting the city and its surrounds, with Norfolk Fire and rescue declaring a major incident on December 23 after responding to more than 300 callouts in a 12-hour period.
Hundreds of homes went without power, and people were asked to avoid travelling at all on Christmas Eve.
At Green Lane in Thorpe End, cars were submerged in flood water under the rail bridge.
Dramatic rescues took place on December 23 and 24 in the danger-spot: one mother was trapped with her two young sons, and another man and woman who were, according to rescuers, lucky to be pulled out of their car alive.