Flood-torn community 'in fear' every time it rains
- Credit: Jess Coppins
Help is finally coming for residents who have spent 40 years "living in fear" of being flooded out every time it rains.
The Watton and Saham Toney flood action group, which was set up in 2017, have been working tirelessly get the help they need to tackle the ongoing problem with flooding in the area.
In 2009, 2016, and August and December last year, parts of the town and surrounding villages were hit with severe floods affecting homes and businesses. But the problem can be traced back as far as the 1980s.
Angela Minto, 75, has been living at her home on Cley Lane in Saham Toney for 15 years and her home has been flooded three times.
“We were first flooded in 2016 after heavy rain and it was like a tidal wave," she said. "It went all through my lounge, and kitchen. We were totally up to our knees in water.
“Then it happened again in August last year and the day before the Christmas eve and it was twice as bad. Every time it rains the nerves start. You don’t know what to expect.”
She continued: “When we have lovely weather, you're all happy because the sun is shining but when you look up in the sky and see a great black cloud and you think 'oh my god'.
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“It’s a horrific experience at my age. I thought that was going to be my last home. I don’t want to move but I am going to be forced to because you can’t live in fear of a drop of rain coming down but I am not the only one.”
Liz Whitcher is chairman of the action group said there are a myriad of problems which contribute to the floods, including unmaintained ditches, highways drains and watercourses.
As well as problems with foul sewers, water unable to drain into Watton’s brook and overdevelopment in the area - with ineffective drainage systems.
Ms Whitcher said: “At Christmas Saham Toney had a terrible time. The water in the centre of the village was a metre deep. There was one elderly lady who had to be rescued in the middle of the night on Christmas.
“In Watton we had 13 fire appliances there pumping the water out and many homes were flooded internally not only with water but sewage. That was absolutely awful for them. And all over Watton people's homes were flooded.”
The action group had already secured commitments from local authorities including Anglian Water and Norfolk County Council agencies to make improvements.
But following the Christmas foods - which affected communities across Norfolk - Watton and Saham Toney are now among 16 flooding hot-spots which were identified by a new task force.
The Norfolk Strategic Flooding Alliance (NSFA), chaired by former head of the British army Lord Richard Dannatt, has highlighted more than a dozen sites which will be investigated and given help to secure funding.
Lord Dannatt said: “The Alliance – led by Norfolk County Council as lead agency on this particular site – is committed to developing an outline, costed solution for Watton and Saham Toney, which will be a key part of any future funding bids that are necessary.
“We’re working with a range of partners, including the flood action group and landowners, to look at what is needed to address flooding on the site, and are working towards being ready to apply for funding in the autumn and getting work going as soon as possible after that."
Working with the alliance, Anglian Water say they will also be undertaking work on the ground to make improvements to their sewer network and plan to implement a number of surface water management measures, as part of their Make Rain Happy programme.
Keith Gilbert, Watton town councillor and Breckland Councillor, added: “It has been going on for years.
“I have been on town council now for 38 years and back when I first joined there were flooding issues in the town and it is still going on.
“Without action this will continue.”