Was rubbish-strewn brook to blame for Aylesbury floods?

Some of the items found in Stoke Brook
Some of the items found in Stoke Brook

A long list of items including mattresses, tyres, estate agent boards, road signs, tiles, carpets and heaps of branches and logs have been removed from a brook as the inquest into the Willows flooding in Aylesbury continues.

More than 80 homes from the estate were hit by flooding on Friday with 10 of those filled with water when the nearby Stoke Brook burst its banks.

Families are still assessing the damage to their properties but the inquiry into whether the flooding could have been prevented has begun.

Aylesbury Vale District councillor Steven Lambert, who knocked on doors to alert affected families on Friday morning, believes the flooding could have been avoided if the brook had been dredged to remove blockages.

He said: “We found a mattress, tiles, carpet and metres and metres of branches and logs.

“There is overwhelming evidence that this is down to neglect. I’m 99.9% sure of that.

“The Environment Agency are responsible but the councils should be following it up.

“I also think help was too slow for residents. Four and a half hours before any sort of formal support is not acceptable.

“And we’re now asking questions about the district council’s manual for emergency incidents like this, which is not good enough.

“This is years of under-investment and confused responsibility. We all need to know who is responsible for what and try and pass it to the lowest local authority possible.”

Lib Dem Mr Lambert praised Tory county council chief Martin Tett for visiting the flood site, listening to victims and ensuring more than 100 sand bags have been supplied to the estate.

He also praised Kier Infrastructure, who Mr Lambert said provided tonnes of sand ‘out of the goodness of their hearts’.

More than 4,000 sand bags have been supplied to affected areas across the county with 1,800 filled and ready to go if needed.

Mr Tett described the situation at the Willows as ‘still precarious’ and said a mobile information centre has been sent to the estate to offer advice and support.

He said: “It’s too early to jump to a scapegoat. If the culvert hadn’t been blocked, would it have flooded? I don’t know.

“The Environment Agency aren’t the total villains here.

“It needs calm heads to look at what could have been prevented but Transport for Bucks operations remain on red alert for any further flooding.”

Nick Hancock, 35, who has been told by his insurance company that everything on his flooded ground floor must be replaced, is frustrated the brook was not cleared before the floods.

He said: “My question would be why wasn’t this done sooner to prevent this? It’s disappointing.”

Aylesbury MP David Lidington is also demanding answers from the Environment Agency.

The MP, who visited victims in the Willows estate near Walton Court on Saturday morning, has written to the agency to seek answers on whether the floods could have been prevented.

He questions whether there should have been regular maintenance of Stoke Brook.

He told The Bucks Herald: “Several residents said to me that the inspections take place very rarely, once a year, and that contractors do very little to remove debris. Are they good enough?”

Mr Lidington also questionned whether sluice gates. which control the flow of water, had been mismanaged at local reservoirs.

“The speed at which the water dissipated suggests that sluice gates, which were closed, had been opened. Or there was a large blockage which was dealt with?

“What exactly was going on there and why was that not identified earlier?”

Finally, he wants to know whether blocked drains played a part in the flooding.

He added: “Once we have established some facts, we will need to get all the agencies involved to make sure we minimise the chances of this happening again.

“We also need to know, given the sheer volume of rain, whether any reasonable flood defence would have worked or was it just overwhelmed.”

The Canal & River trust, which controls flow of water courses across the county, has said it is confident the operation of sluice gates was monitored and controlled.

Senior waterway manager Jeff Whyatt said: “We were very conscious that there was a lot of flooding which is why we didn’t release extra water from the Tring reservoirs down the Aylesbury arm.

“It’s easy for people living in the shadow of the reservoir to say it is to blame which is absolutely not the case.

“There were many factors outside of our control, like six weeks of record rainfall but we will be sitting down with councils to clarify our role in all of this.

“In my eight years, I’ve seen nothing like it and some of my staff, who have been here for 30 years, can’t recall a situation like this one.”