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WICKFORD: Town could be sunk by flash floods

By This is Essex  |  Posted: March 31, 2009

WORRIED: Barrie Adcock

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TORRENTIAL downpours could spell disaster for Wickford after it was highlighted as being at risk of flash flooding.

A new flooding map produced on behalf of the Environment Agency shows the town is in grave danger of becoming submerged should the trend for heavy summer storms continue.

However, we can not show you the map because the Environment Agency is releasing it only to the emergency services because it fears general publication could result in widespread panic.

The agency said: "These maps cannot be released other than to Category 1 organisations like the police and emergency planners because they do not indicate where the drainage is and can make the potential risk look worse than it might be."

Barrie Adcock, of Brock Hill, Wickford, said: "That is typical of the Government, we will be flooded out before we even know we are at risk."

The former newsagent is well aware of the danger Wickford is in, having seen the floods of 1958.

He said: "We sit in a valley between Billericay, Rayleigh and Basildon. Wickford is extremely low-lying."

The 72-year-old pointed out that Wickford has been almost untouched by flood waters since the disaster of 1958, which saw much of the town flooded out.

He added: "Basildon council spent money redirecting the River Crouch, so we are safe from that."

But flash flooding is a different story altogether.

A spokesman for the Environment Agency said: "The map was produced using a combination of data and local knowledge.

"It looks at the threat posed by surface water flooding caused by very heavy localised rainfall, like we saw in Gloucester two years ago.

"This is the type of weather experienced as a result of summer weather patterns."

During these heavy rain showers, the water falls too quickly to soak into the soil and gathers in pools on top of the surface, especially in low-lying areas.

The fact that Wickford has expanded rapidly since 1958 and is now a heavily built-up area means that even less water is absorbed into the ground, increasing the threat of flooding.

The maps were produced by specialist flood mapping company JBA Consulting, which used aerial reconnaissance.

Jill Boulton, of JBA, said: "Surface flooding will take place even away from rivers because of development removing natural drainage. This can even happen in hilly areas."

Consultants from JBA have warned the Environment Agency that more care should be taken over building on flood plains now that climate change is having a real effect on flooding.

Ms Boulton said: "It should not be the householder who is left on the front line. Major flood relief, prudent construction and attention to repair, cleaning and capacity of the drainage systems are vital."

A new insurance protocol operative from January to 2013 means insurers are not bound to cover homes that have a less than a one in 75 year chance of flooding, JBA also warned.

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