Homeowners are ‘living in fear’ after frequent flooding

    Residents blame council and housing group for problem

    Tunbridge Wells Flooding

    The aftermath: We find out how businesses and residents are faring, a month after heavy floods hit the town. Adam Hignett reports…

    Residents whose homes were ‘destroyed’ by flooding in 2012 are living in fear of history repeating following recent heavy rainfall.

    Those living in Brook Road, Tunbridge Wells, have suffered ‘sleepless nights’ ever since flash floods hit the town last month.

    Further downpours last week caused further distress, and they have criticised other parties for ‘not taking responsibility’ for the problem.

    Knee-deep

    Nicholas Twist, who lives in a flat in Taylor Court, said: “In 2012 we were knee-deep and it destroyed the property. It took nine months to get back in.

    “We’d had no more major issues until recently. When the centre of town was hit with major flooding a few weeks ago, we experienced similar things up here.”

    Mr Twist believes the main cause of the problem is a culvert behind Taylor Court, which overflows on to an adjoining car park. He also believes that poor maintenance of the car park causes the water to flow towards his home rather than draining away.

    “After the first flood we talked to the housing association about what they could do to stop the culvert from blocking up.

    “To be fair, they do occasionally come and clean it, but it simply can’t cope with this level of water. And the car park drains aren’t fit for purpose.

    “In 2012 every car in there was under water. Three weeks ago it was a swimming pool.

    “Harold House next door was flooded. We’ve made numerous requests but nothing’s been done.”

    Mr Twist claims the problem is exacerbated by Kent Highways’ failure to maintain the drains in Brook Road and fact the road and kerb are at the same level, which creates a ‘waterfall’ on to the property.

    He said: “We told the county council about it, but there’s a lack of urgency. They said they could send someone out but it might take 28 days.”

    Debris

    Mr Twist and neighbours have taken matters into their own hands, using sandbags and other measures to protect their homes. But he says they will not rest easy until such measures are no longer necessary.

    He said: “This isn’t an issue people are suddenly realising exists, it’s been going on for a while.

    “We’re doing as much as we can to protect our property, but we would like it never to reach our property, rather than us rushing to defend it every time it rains.”

    Richard Glaister, of housing association Home Group which owns the car park, said: “We’ve carried out work this summer to clear debris from a culvert near our property. We’ve arranged for it to be cleared again and we will continue to monitor it.

    “In the last few years we’ve seen a change in weather patterns which result in torrential rain of increasing severity. We’re working with customers and residents of neighbouring properties to find both short and long term solutions to flash-flooding.”

    ‘The culvert now just fills up like a bucket’

    Kim Thornewell, who lives next door to Mr Twist, said: “Most of the water comes from the car park belonging to the building next door.

    “They have been pretty good looking after the culvert since the big flood in 2012. But in the last few weeks, it’s just filling up like a bucket.

    “Water very nearly came into the property when The Pantiles was flooded, and last week it was just about to come over my doorstep.

    “I was rushing around the flat gathering up my possessions from the floor and ferrying them out to the car to try and save them.”

    Miss Thornewell said a resident of Harold House has moved out as a result of the situation.

    She added: “It’s beyond a joke now. We’re on tenterhooks the whole time – every time it rains you fear for what will happen and it leads to sleepless nights. We have had to sandbag it all ourselves. The problem is a combination of KCC highways not looking after drains, the road surface and kerb being level, and the housing association Home Group not maintaining existing drainage and not having sufficient drainage to begin with.”

    Home Group maintains it does carry out clearance work and will do so again. The company blames ‘a change in weather patterns’ for heavy rainfall.

    KCC: Drains to be cleared

    A statement from Kent County Council says:

    “On August 25, we received a report of a blocked culvert in the vicinity of Harold and Water Croft House. This has been investigated and referred to Southern Water which owns the culvert. We received a further enquiry this week regarding blocked drains at this location. In response, arrangements have been made for the drains to be cleaned and this work is expected to be completed this week subject to residents adhering to temporary parking restrictions.

    “Prior to August 25, we had received no reports of flooding or drainage problems since 2012. No drainage improvements are planned but if residents are concerned…we would ask they call us on 03000 418181.”

    Flooding ‘more common’

    The Met Office said: “Flash flooding as experienced in Tunbridge Wells is more likely to be an issue in the summer than the winter. Rainfall is often sharper and more intense in the summer, whereas in winter it doesn’t fall so quickly, so drains tend to cope better.”

    A 2014 Met Office report said: “As the atmosphere warms, the air can hold more moisture, at an increase of 6-7 per cent per degree of warming. This increase in moisture is expected to lead to increased rainfall within rainstorms.