Dream garden turns into sewage hell

When Sandra Schofield and Stephen Biddle bought their three-bedroom house, they dreamed of growing their own vegetables and having picnics in its large garden.

By SARAH BREALEY

When Sandra Schofield and Stephen Biddle bought their three-bedroom house they dreamed of growing their own vegetables and having picnics in its large garden.

Instead the garden has turned into a source of misery, a bog where nothing will grow. An Anglian Water manhole is spilling raw sewage into the garden, a problem which has happened more often over the years and has been made even worse since the nearby Lowestoft relief road was built. Water flows off the new road and across the gardens on Long Road in the town.

Ms Schofield, 49, a grandmother of two, said: "The biggest reason we bought the house was the beautiful big garden. It had all green lawns, the grandchildren could play, the children could invite their friends round, we used to have picnics. It was beautiful.

"We planted pear and apple trees and we used to grow all our own vegetables - cabbages, cauliflowers, carrots, runner beans, salad veg. We didn't have to buy any vegetables, but now we can't grow a single thing. No-one wants to eat vegetables that have been swimming in sewage water, and anyway the ground is so wet that they won't grow."

The couple have been writing to Anglian Water since 2004, and have also contacted environmental health officers, Suffolk County Council, and Waveney MP Bob Blizzard to no avail.

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Ms Schofield said: "We used to have raw sewage, used sanitary dressings, disposable nappies, all sorts floating around the garden. Now we have put a paving slab and a tree trunk on top of the manhole so we just get the water and brown scum and bits of toilet roll that come through. It is still horrible."

She and Mr Biddle, a sales co-ordinator for Betterware, have had to replace their garden shed after water got underneath it and rotted it, and have also spent money replacing topsoil and soaking up the water with hay. But each time they have repaired the garden, heavy rain has caused the problem again, and their new topsoil has to be taken away because it is contaminated with sewage.

Anglian Water spokesman Dan Baker said: "We are aware of the problem of flooding on Long Road in Lowestoft. Our engineers are in the process of investigating the root of the problem and who is responsible for it.

"Once this wide-reaching, ongoing investigation reaches some conclusions, we will assess whether investment is appropriate for each location and then prioritise progression of any improvement work.

"In the meantime we thank our customers for their patience and assure them that now we aware of the problem we are doing all we can to reach a suitable conclusion."

He could not say how long the problem would take to resolve, and said that a "quick fix" solution would not be appropriate.