Park Street residents left paying the price of flooding due to blocked drains

The yard surface had to be replaced at Park Street Test Centre as it was also affected by rainwater

The yard surface had to be replaced at Park Street Test Centre as it was also affected by rainwater which flowed off the nearby Park Street Lane, after the council failed to clear blocked drains. - Credit: Photo supplied

Being hit with an increased insurance premium after rainwater deluged her centuries-old cottage as a result of blocked drains on a nearby road has angered a local woman.

Suzi Clark has suffered the inconvenience of having extensive remedial work done to her beloved Rose Cottage at Park Street Lane, located at the road’s junction with the A5183 into Frogmore.

Specialist builders have just completed repairs on her historic home after it was flooded in July last year, along with the neighbouring Park Street Test Centre, after water inundated the firm’s yard.

A deep trench had to be dug around Suzi’s home and filled with stones, to stop water penetrating in future, while repairs were also made to internal brickwork and external walls.

She said: “For those of us who suffered damage last year, it’s an ongoing nightmare. My cottage is one of the oldest properties in Park Street. The damage caused to the walls of this listed property by the flooding is sad to see.”

Suzi explained that her 350-year-old “Civil War cottage” acted like ‘a wick’ drawing up water into its walls from the flooded ground.

She and fellow residents believe that prior to October last year, no drains were cleared by the county council’s highways contractor for several years – soil had built up so much in one drain that a daffodil grew out of it.

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Her home flooded as a result of a combination of torrential rain, and the blocked drains in the road not coping with a sudden deluge.

She recalled Park Street Lane being so flooded that she could not see the road surface at one stage and “water was starting to spurt through my walls.”

There is supposed to be an 18-month cycle to clear drains in Park Street, but “if vegetation falls annually, how can 18 months be effective?” Suzi asked, adding, “Further problems are caused by the fact that Ringway [council’s highway contractor] don’t cut all the grass verges regularly, nor are they paid to take away the cut grass, which then gets washed into the drains. It does not take account of leaves falling every autumn either.”

She said: “It cannot be coincidence that since the drains were finally cleaned in October, there has been no further flooding at the Park Street Lane junction despite recent heavy rain. So why aren’t the drains being kept clear more regularly?”

Suzi suggested that substantial fines levied on Ringway by the county council for failing to do the work it was paid for from 2013-2015, “should be passed on as compensation to home and small business owners who are suffering the discomfort and expenses of having to cope with flooded premises. I have had the heating and fans on since August to dry the house out, and my insurance premium has gone up.”

Next door to her, Brian Lawrence, director of Park Street Test Centre, has also recently had repair work completed, as “drains on the road were blocked so rainwater came flooding into the yard.

“Machinery and equipment in the workshop were also damaged. The insurance covered the work but it doesn’t cover the inconvenience and the down time, as the yard surface had to be replaced as well.”

Extra cash for flood defences?

The government is being lobbied for additional funding to help Herts cope better with flooding, but residents have been warned it is not always preventable.

It is ‘inevitable’ during long periods of wet weather or sudden, heavy downpours that there will be some flooding as the volume or intensity of rainfall is greater than the capacity of the ground to absorb it, and a “well maintained drainage system to safely remove it”, according to Herts county council.

A spokesman for the authority said: “We are sorry to hear about the flooding in Park Street Lane and can understand residents’ frustration. The storm in July was exceptionally severe and caused flash flooding of a high intensity over a short period, which overwhelmed the drainage system.”

He confirmed Ringway cleaned gullies along the road in October “and will do so again every 18 months as part of the routine maintenance of the county’s 168,000 gullies”.

Ringway was also to carry out some high pressure jetting of the gullies in Park Street Lane this week.

The spokesman added: “While we would like to be in a position to assist all residents who have experienced flooding, we only have a limited amount of resources available and our powers of enforcement and influence are restricted.

“We are lobbying government for additional funding, a quicker and simpler bidding process for small-scale local flood mitigation schemes and more powers to tackle flooding.”

He warned, however, that it “is not always preventable and there is a limit to support we can provide. We aim to investigate all reports of flooding to see if there is anything that can be done to reduce the risk in future.”

The spokesman advised residents ‘where practical’ to take measures to protect themselves and their property from flooding.

St Albans district council last week agreed to create a £100,000 flood fund to help households and business premises which have been flooded more than once a year, over the past two years.

Cllr Chris White, Lib Dem group leader, said: “There are too many individual properties which have suffered flooding in this district. While the headlines have understandably been about the terrible events in the north of England, surface water flooding and sewage has affected homes and businesses in this area as well.

“Currently, government-backed schemes are inadequate to help those affected and the costs of localised flood prevention can be very high.”

• For flood information and advice click here.