Empty Lowestoft street a reminder of devastating tidal surge
A street in south Lowestoft offers a stark reminder of how the tidal surge battered the town.
More than a dozen properties in St Johns Road, Kirkley, remain empty after their residents were forced to move.
During the tidal surge, 20 people had to be evacuated by firefighters as flood waters rose at the bottom end of the road – and most have not returned.
One of the few people still living in a property that was flooded is Dennis Buckley.
Mr Buckley, 47, lost clothes, furniture and electrical goods and he is still carrying out repairs to his home. He described the surrounding area as a “ghost town”.
He said: “There are only one or two of us still here, which is sad to see in the road. I never thought about moving out. I love my house and just wanted to get on trying to get back to normal as quickly as possible.
“I don’t know if people will move back or if I will get new neighbours.”
Reflecting on the events from six months ago Mr Buckley, who works at SLP, said: “I couldn’t believe how much water came into my home. I put some stuff in my bath to try and save them.
“I did have some nightmares afterwards during the winter as I thought it could happen again.”
Lowestoft businesses getting back on even keel
Shops in Bevan Street East were inundated with flood water that led to thousands of pounds of stock being lost and hefty repair bills.
The Lowestoft Carpet and Rug Co lost up to £20,000 of stock and its front office needed about £9,000 of repair work.
Its owner Steve Clemmett said the repairs were finally nearing completion.
He said: “Things are nearly back to normal, finally. It has been hard work but we are getting there.”
Andy Martin, owner of Workwear Solutions, lost about £5,000 of stock. He said: “It took a few months, but we are getting back to normal here, unlike a few other places.
“I just hope something like this never happens again down here.”
Mr Buckley said he still had a “gripe” over what he said was lack of information and help from Waveney District Council after the flooding in his road.
Gareth Douce, Waveney councillor for Kirkley, has called for a review of the flood response to be presented to the authority’s overview and scrutiny committee, which is due to discuss the floods aftermath in September.
Mr Douce said: “Labour councillors for Kirkley and Harbour Wards have met with senior officers from the council, including the chief executive, to share our feedback from the event which is being fed into the review process to help improve the response for future incidents.”
The flood waters that inundated the town in December may have long since receded, but calls for an £18m scheme to protect it from further damage are growing.
Last November, proposals for a flood barrier that would see a 2m high wall built from Hamilton Dock to South Pier and a lifting lock gate installed by the A12 Bascule bridge were unveiled within the Lowestoft Transport and Infrastructure Prospectus.
The scheme was drawn up amid fears that major floods could hit Lowestoft every 20 years – swamping more than 650 homes.
Responding to the concerns, Waveney District Council leader Colin Law said: “From our point of view, the events of December 5 show the importance of the tidal barrier. If it goes ahead those properties affected in December would not be affected again – that is why it is important that the proposal is implemented.
“We had 180 properties flooded in Lowestoft – and remember it is not a city, so that is a significant number of homes and businesses. People don’t realise more homes were flooded in Lowestoft than in the Somerset Levels.
“There are still people clearing up after the events of December, using dehumidifiers to dry out their homes of the damp.”
Waveney MP Peter Aldous said: “It is important that Lowestoft’s flood defences are upgraded to provide the best possible protection against the likely increased frequency of such events in future. It is good news that Suffolk County Council and Waveney District Council have worked up a scheme that achieves this and that it has been submitted to the government.
“I shall be working with them to ensure that work can start as soon as practicably possible. This is important to attract new jobs to the town and will complement the assisted area and enterprise zone designations.”
The tidal barrier project involves Waveney, the county council, Lowestoft and Waveney Chamber of Commerce and the Environment Agency.
A Lowestoft-based charity this week celebrated the reopening of its accommodation block for homeless people – six months after it was left under 4ft of water during the tidal surge.
On Monday, Access Community Trust officially reopened the Fyffe Centre in Belvedere Road.
The centre, which houses 27 people in need of support, had to be closed in December after £250,000 of damage was caused by the flooding.
Residents and staff pulled together in the aftermath as they moved to temporary accommodation in Lowestoft High Street.
Emma Ratzer, chief executive officer at the charity, said: “Everyone is absolutely delighted to be back. I was very impressed by how everyone worked together after the flood, which devastated the ground floor and saw some residents lose prized possessions.”
Fyffe House resident Graham Smith, 52, lost all his possessions when the tidal surge hit the building.
He said: “The flood was horrendous. It ruined everything I had. But the staff here were brilliant afterwards.
“It is great to be back, I don’t know what I would do without it and the trust.”