Residents' anger at blocked drains
FLOODING victims say thousands of pounds worth of damage was needlessly caused to their homes because of blocked drains as nearly a month's rain fell in Mid Devon in only three days.
Cullompton was one of the worst-hit towns in the district, with residents of Landlands Road, Brook Street and Pound Square among those affected.
Elsewhere residents of villages including Uffculme and Hemyock were kept awake at night while waters rose.
Waterstave Bridge, just off the B3181, near the Merry Harriers pub, was washed away as the Culm broke its banks.
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There is anger that drains and gullies in Cullompton had not been cleared by Devon County Council, despite calls to the authority by residents warning of an impending disaster after rain led to rising water last month.
Properties were only spared further damage thanks to a huge community effort to clear drains, with pensioners working alongside teenagers to remove debris.
Kerry Rowland and her husband David have had to move sons Miles, 10, and Elliott, six, out to stay with grandparents.
The Willowbank Primary School pupils had to climb over the back wall of their property in Pound Square after it was severely flooded on Wednesday night.
"Our kitchen, lounge and hallway have been completely ruined," said Mrs Rowland.
"We did have some warning and were able to take some belongings upstairs.
"The hugely frustrating thing is that these houses should not flood. They only did because the drains were full of sludge."
Residents say Devon County Council workers did arrive on Wednesday to look at one of the drains in the centre of the road at Pound Square, but did not inspect the drains at the side of the road.
Michelle Searle, 41, also suffered severe flooding. She said her father, Maurice Lane, 67, was one of many residents who realised the drains were not clear on Wednesday, and there was more wet weather on the way.
Neighbours armed with drain rods spent two hours clearing culverts in the dark with the help of local plumber Adam Bliss while she made tea for them. After mud and grit was cleared, water levels in the street began to go down, but for many the damage had already been done.
"I think it's a disgrace that my dad and my sons had to go out in the dark to do a job which should have been done weeks ago," said Mrs Searle, who works at Mole Valley Farmers.
"We were on holiday in October when a friend in the street noticed drains weren't working properly. She called the council then but no-one ever came.
"Because of their negligence people have lost possessions and are having to live in stinking, flooded properties. For a relatively small amount of time and money this could have been avoided. There is a huge amount of anger about this."
Devon County Councillor John Berry was among those pitching in. He found that two shopping trollies full of rubbish were blocking the leat near the Texaco garage. The store moved out of the town in 2010, indicating that the trollies had been there at least two years. Cllr Berry managed to pull them to one side.
Many Cullompton residents think the huge amount of redevelopment in the town could be to blame for the blocked drains, which they say were full of grit and earth, rather than leaves.
Swallow Way and Langlands Road were among some of the streets which were left almost impassable and some people who live at Rivermead, Chestnut Avenue and Brook Road say this was the worst weather they have witnessed in decades.
Lynne Read, who has lived in Brook Road for 27 years, said last week was the second time this year her neighbourhood has suffered widespread flooding and believes it is mostly down to a culvert at Exeter Road being overwhelmed.
"People along from us have all had water in their houses to varying degrees, and one neighbour had water right through their home, so we were lucky," said Mrs Read, whose garage was flooded.
"The culvert is not big enough to take the volume of water that has been coming down. Instead of going under the road towards the river, it has come over the top, across Exeter Road and down Brook Road. It needs experts to investigate what's going on, whether it is the drains that need attention or the culvert that needs attention."
Parish council staff and members also helped with another community effort to clear drains in Knightswood while colleagues remained at the town hall in the event of it being called upon as an evacuation centre by residents.
The Met Office recorded Cullompton to have 91mm of rain between late Tuesday, November 20, and 7am on Thursday, November 23, and only one town in Devon had more – Okehampton, at 92mm.
A spokesperson said: "We are getting close to the monthly average of 116mm over the three days."
Alexandria Industrial Estate was submerged by 1.5m of water and Devon and Somerset Fire Rescue Service's special operations team had to use a motorboat to rescue seven people from their places of work at around 12.45pm last Wednesday.
Two Western Power Distribution electrical engineers were rescued after becoming stranded in a while carrying out repairs at around 4pm that day.
A county council spokesman said: "Drains are being cleared but they can become overwhelmed in conditions such as this, where high volumes of debris are being washed into them over such a short period of time."
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