Sewage misery mars wedding joy

JON WELCH Residents on a new housing estate are demanding compensation from the developer after their homes were flooded with sewage.People on the Poppyfields development at Hethersett, near Norwich, say there have been frequent problems with the sewerage system and are calling on housebuilder George Wimpey to act.

JON WELCH

Residents on a new housing estate are demanding compensation from the developer after their homes were flooded with sewage.

People on the Poppyfields development at Hethersett, near Norwich, say there have been frequent problems with the sewerage system and are calling on housebuilder George Wimpey to act.

James Gotts and Miranda Shepherd are due to marry today, but their wedding preparations were thrown into disarray when their three-bedroom town house was flooded with sewage, causing damage estimated at £5,000.

Mr Gotts, 30, said that, since they moved into the brand-new house in December, the level of water in the toilet pan and cistern had risen perilously high several times.

On June 17, sewage spilled out of the toilet throughout the ground floor of their £200,000 house, damaging furniture, flooring, Mr Gotts's extensive record collection and their honeymoon clothes.

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“I haven't had the chance to get my head around getting married. I haven't slept properly,” said Mr Gotts.

Miss Shepherd, 24, said: “It stank as well. George Wimpey said: 'Yes, it's our fault.' They sent in a decontamination company, who performed swab tests, and all the damaged items were taken away.”

The couple said the housebuilder originally told them it would compensate them for the damage but then changed its mind. “They have found it was 'misuse of the drains', and for that reason they are not going to pay us a penny,” said Miss Shepherd.

George Wimpey wrote to five households on June 21. Its letter stated: “Due to people misusing the drainage system between plots 88 and 92 we have had a serious flood of sewage into plot 92, resulting in the ground floor being completely ruined.

“This has resulted in the owners having their carpets, furniture and clothing destroyed.”

It said the blockage was caused by baby wipes being flushed away.

But Mr Gotts, a plumber, said he was sceptical and that he had removed mud and lumps of concrete which had set in the drains. “Every time it's rained heavily here it has backed up,” he added.

Last Sunday, residents of the five houses were warned not to flush toilets or run taps because of the risk of flooding. Instead they had to use facilities in a show home.

The problems forced Zoe Brown, 28, to cancel her son Louie's first birthday party. “It was a day ruined that we can't get back,” she said.

The family suffered a flood of raw sewage on New Year's Day, causing damage which they put at £3,000.

“They had forgotten to put a soil pipe in, so our house wasn't even connected to the sewer,” said Mrs Brown, who fears her garden may now be contaminated.

“I wish we hadn't bought the house. I would never buy a George Wimpey house again.”

A company spokesman said: “We empathise with those residents affected by the drain blockages. Following our immediate investigation we found that this was caused by baby wipes being flushed into the system.

“Such materials do not break down and eventually build up, causing a blockage. We have written to all residents to explain the situation and advised on what can and cannot be flushed into the system.”

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