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Slow progress for flood defences while residents “live in fear”

18 Jan 2024 4 minute read
Flood

Bruce Sinclair Local Democracy Reporter

Councillors are to visit the site of works intended to tackle floods which reached eight feet and wreaked havoc back in 2018, while residents remain “living in fear of the rain”.

Flooding at Lower Priory and Havens Head in November 2018 saw floodwater as high as eight feet, devastating homes and residents’ lives.

Since then, slow progress has been made in developing a Havens Head and Lower Priory flood alleviation scheme.

“Harrowing experiences”

Local residents have previously told their harrowing experiences of the 2018 flooding, with further updates in the wake of the recent impacts of Storm Ciarán and Storm Henk, heard at the January 16 meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council’s services overview and scrutiny committee.

Sarah Rees, of Havens Head, has previously described the scenes during the November 2018 floods: “The water was crystal clear, like being in a bath; and then suddenly the brown came in.

“Every time it rains the first thing that enters your head is what’s the pond condition?

“It was pitch black, all the electricity had gone out; we had to try and get out of the back, trying to find the steps to get out of the garden.

“I had my daughter with me, she just had time to grab her A-level books and go; we were trying to get out of that house. The force of the water, you can still feel it.

“We had to try and get out of the garden in Havens Head, it was the most terrifying experience of my life.”

“Terrifying”

For Ian Bannister of Lower Priory and his daughter Natalie, living next door, the 2018 flood was “terrifying” and caused them a huge financial cost.

Natalie said: “I was doing the washing in the kitchen and I felt: ‘I’ve got to get my baby out’.

“I had to take her to my parents’ home; we were just trying to put everything up here, it was pointless, we were expecting inches, and it went to feet.”

Ian described the scenes as the floodwater rose higher and higher at his daughter’s home: “As a grandad, with all the toys floating and all the Christmas presents, it broke my heart.

“If the baby was sleeping in the cot downstairs, that baby would certainly have drowned.”

Members of the January committee heard further experiences from residents while they scrutinised an update on the flood schemes, the council recently succeeding in its business case to the Welsh Government FCERM (Flood & Coastal Erosion Risk Management) team.

Following that, investigation to develop a detailed design of a proposed new culvert is underway, with a further Pipeline application to the Welsh Government to bid for funding, to allow for the construction phase to commence.

Concerns

The two local members Cllr Viv Stoddart of Havens Head, and Cllr Rhys Sinnett of Lower Priory, spoke of the concerns raised by their constituents.

“I would ask officers to do their utmost to get going on this; if you are living in Havens Head and listening to the heavy rain – you can imagine what’s going on in their heads,” said Cllr Stoddart.

Cllr Sinnett added: “Here we are in 2024 with almost glacial progress, I would lay that very much at the door of Welch Government in terms of the delays in assessing and approving the information they requested over a period of time.

“Anything we can do to perhaps ask them to push this as quickly as possible to get to fruition would be really, really positive; and I’m behind that 100 per cent.”

He said Lower Priory had once again suffered in the recent storms, residents – who feel there is a need for a bespoke facility at Lower Priory in addition to the Havens Head works – revisiting the experiences of 2018 “every time it rains”.

Living in fear

Cllr Rhys Jordan said there was a public perception the issue was not seen to be tackled when other priorities seemed to be favoured.

“I know local members will fight this all the way; I think we all agree it’s not okay for people’s properties to be flooded, it’s not okay for people to live in fear of the rain.

“This is far more important than any expansion of the Senedd, or 20mph limits, or any new projects in the county.”

Members agreed, following an amendment proposed by chairman Cllr Mark Carter, to visit the site, in addition to noting the report.

 


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