• A day in the life of a Feniton resident

    1st January 2014 | News | Claire
  • Well, here we are again! It is the first day of the New Year and I have been trailing round the neighbourhood, knocking on doors to wish the residents Happy New Year.

    Nothing unusual about that you would think. After all, it is New Year’s Day. You would be wrong! This is not an outbreak of bonhomie on my part, but more a reflection of sheer and increasing desperation that is shared by just about all of the residents of Feniton. What is it we are becoming increasingly desperate about?: being repeatedly flooded with our neighbourhood’s excrement.

    An e-mail from a doctor-friend in Hawaii sums it up nicely: ‘I had no idea England was so like a third-world country’. Well, it is here in Feniton. And it is going to get worse……much worse…………..if the developers get their way, egged on by some seemingly irresponsible and greedy government departments who appear unable to comprehend the meaning of the term ‘sustainable development’.

    It started this morning shortly after 9 a.m. The familiar sound that I dread resonated round my house: a repeated glug-glugging sound, a warning that the sewer is blocked in Ottery Road. I looked out of my bay window. There it was…………again: the sewer. It was lapping round the large concrete pot that sports a red cordyline on the side of my garden.

    Alongside it was the familiar sight of a wide wave of brown, murky water gushing down Ottery Road and rising in fountains from the manhole covers. I briefly watched the sturdy souls, who naively thought they could drive out of the village. They created tidal waves rising to about eight foot as they headed for the deeper waters that would engulf them at Patterson’s Cross where they too might need rescuing.

    I thought about the plight of my poor neighbours at the bottom of my road who have been flooded more than seven times in a few months and wondered if the fire engines were already in action pumping out their properties.

    They now permanently leave their furniture upstairs. Who would chose to live like this?: those, of course, who foolishly believe the developers’ blurb about the ‘stunning’ new developments in Feniton whose very presence will seriously exacerbate our plight. These ‘stunning’ new developments sadly come with added attractions not normally sought by potential home buyers. Never has the term caveat emptor been more appropriate.

    As the murky brown, swiftly-flowing waters rose, I phoned South West Water. Repeatedly. They were ‘closed’. It was bank holiday and I must ring them another day. I persisted.  ‘This number is no longer available’. With my hypertension reaching new levels, I phoned people in Feniton. No answer. Feniton, it seemed, was ‘out’. Well, it was Bank Holiday.

    There was just me, the cat and the flood.

    Feniton was indeed ‘out’, I later learned. Our ever-wonderful councillor Susie Bond and her husband were helping to rescue people trapped by the flood water and assessing the situation around the beleaguered village. The flood barrier at the allotments was about to give way under the force of water, the smell of sewer in the old village, where impressive fountains of foul waste erupts from manhole covers, was strong.  Others were anxiously examining their properties as the flood waters lapped threateningly towards their sandbagged doors.

    Curiously, I am informed, the properties at the back of the new Wainhomes’ development experienced flooding in areas where they had not been flooded before. Meanwhile, the land upon which the new houses are being built no longer appeared to be absorbing its usual share of flood water. The excess water was being, apparently, successfully diverted away from the site and onto neighbouring properties. Funny that.

    Eventually, I had success. Someone in SWW was ‘in’. They would send someone out to me as soon as they could. Yes, they thought that the East Devon Council’s advice on a previous occasion that my neighbours should use buckets for their basic bodily functions was a good one.

    After all, if they flushed their lavatories, the product of their basic functions would not remain private from me or anyone else who would risk wadding down the road. (I have never been able to find someone who can explain to me why one of us clipped a blue clothes peg to a condom that swept into my garden in a previous flood. Perhaps they have all led sheltered lives like me.)

    Six hours later, I am still waiting for South West Water to arrive. The sky is deep gunmetal grey, ready to unleash a wall of water onto our sodden ground and the BBC broadcaster has just informed me that flooding is a real possibility. The cat has her paws crossed, probably like the residents of the Burlands. She will have to keep them crossed for quite some time as heavy rain is forecast. Not that we need rain to make it flood in Feniton anymore.

    As I wait, I recall the words of the men from South West Water and the Environmental Agency at our emergency parish meeting last month. They informed us and our supportive MP, Neil Parish, that an occasional flood was acceptable. Occasional! They were lucky not to be lynched by desperate villagers at the end of their tether. As my family have lived here since the mid-1800s, I know well that every developer in the last hundred years has promised the village that their new housing will not exacerbate the problem. The result?: More flooding. Do they think the people of Feniton suffer from collective amnesia and stupidity?

    A few weeks ago, tenants of the allotments were alarmed to find representatives of the developer on their land, preparing to sink water and sewer pipes for the new houses. At the parish meeting, SWW were asked a crucial question: to what exactly were these new pipes going to be joined?

    Silence!. Er…………well,………um……. exchange of embarrassed glances………….no one, apparently, had actually thought of an answer to that. What can one say?  With the events of the last couple of years one could be excused for believing that the developments are to be forced through regardless of the serious effects on the village. The meeting closed with the parish council asking the Environmental Agency representative, after listening to the serious problems in the village, if his organisation would oppose the new developments. The answer?: an emphatic and loud NO!

    After giving up hope of a visit today from SWW, I negotiated the flood water to Louvigny Close. Here torrential flood waters gushed at speed from the side of the road near Mount View. Immediately above the rising waters a large blue signboard proudly flaunted the name, Wainhomes: a ‘stunning’ new development in the village of Feniton. Spar really does need to buy in several gross of buckets: the hundreds of new families may need them……………..and I don’t mean for bailing out.