• How one ditch can cause so much angst

    23rd October 2013 | News | Claire
  • The two cottages are on the outskirts of the village and have been subjected to repeated flooding for the past few years, but in the past 12 months, have been flooded a shocking seven times, caused by the ditch behind their property overflowing when it rains heavily.

    Their lives consist of: Not sleeping properly, constantly checking the water levels in their ditch, tipping out crazy amounts of water collected on a daily basis by their dehumidifiers, no carpets, furniture on blocks, damp walls and floors, spending thousands of pounds spent on flood defence measures, trying to motivate English Heritage to help, as the cottages are listed, sending angry emails to South West Water about sewage discharges into the ditch, painting and repainting the house inside and out, which then peels off because it is so damp, worrying about the cottages’ structural longevity…. and the list goes on…

    Then when the houses flood – currently a constant threat with all this current heavy rain – the sewage comes in too.  This is because the ditch behind their houses is connected to the sewage pumping station, which South West Water is permitted to discharge into in times of flood. So not only does the water come in, but other very unpleasant items also make an appearance.

    And even when the weather is dry, the ditch has a nasty niff about it, as we noted last week when several of us visited to survey the problem again.

    Mr and Mrs Collins and Mr and Mrs Ewings have been pushing for the ditch behind their properties – the source of the flooding problem – to be moved for the last five years and I have been trying to help with this since I have been their EDDC ward member.  Certainly, the problem is urgent with all the bad weather of last year and the first part of this year.

    So why isn’t the ditch being moved urgently?  After all, Feniton is due to get a flood defence scheme isn’t it?

    Well yes it is, and there are many other families who are at risk of flooding in the village and I have been working with Feniton Parish Council, EDDC engineers and EDDC councillor, Susie Bond, to move the scheme forward.

    So yes, a flood defence scheme is on its way and topographical surveys have now taken place to check the levels of the land, ready for burying the pipe ….BUT

    …well, it seems (puts head in hands) that the solution re the ditch is rife with difficulty.

    First off, there is a planning appeal looming in January for up to 120 houses on the field behind, where the new ditch would be dug. The developer has offered to fund and build the ditch if the appeal is allowed.

    So, a possible solution … possibly – if the appeal is allowed, which no one in Feniton wants anyway, including Mr and Mrs Ewings and Mr and Mrs Collins.

    And then planning permission must be applied for and achieved.  Well this is ok you might think, just apply and get permission don’t you?  Well, no this is also not quite so straightforward because surveys need to be done first and those surveys, which relate to dormice/wildlife, cannot take place until summer next year.

    I have now written to Natural England and asked for a meeting with a representative with a view to being able to tackle this requirement in a more simple way, given the urgent and dreadful circumstances.

    And of course these surveys and the planning consent will still need to be achieved regardless of the appeal so even if the appeal is allowed, this is by no means a panacea. The wildlife surveys need to be done mainly because of a section of hedgerow that must be removed to accommodate the new ditch.

    But it appears that, if the appeal for 120 houses is dismissed, the ditch may not be dug until 2016/2017 because for some reason, it appears to be last on the list for the flood defence scheme works!  I cannot accept that the ditch can or should, take this long to create.

    Just because on a drawing the ditch is one of the last places the water will flow through on its way out of the village this surely doesn’t mean the work can’t take place earlier?

    And also why, if the appeal is allowed, can the developer dig out the ditch earlier?  This is what is being implied could happen, which equally does not make sense.

    To add further stress to the Ewings situation, engineering surveys have recently found a large hole in the pipe which passes directly under their kitchen. This is dangerous and the engineers are very concerned about it.

    So, there are ongoing discussions and there is ongoing uncertainty, frustration, worry and stress – and a sense that we are all going around in circles, without resolving an urgent and serious problem.  And in the meantime, the stress to the Ewings and Collins is becoming intolerable.