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“Get out and dig ditches” flood-hit residents are told

Residents living in flood-hit communities have been told to “get out and dig ditches” to help prevent more wet weather misery.

Cllr Barry McDonnell from Sopley Parish Council revealed how it is now taking a “pro-active” approach to the problem and recently invited representatives from the Environmental Agency to the village to see how it could prevent future flooding.

He said: “If there is a drain blocked outside your home rake it off, it is still blocked report it. If your know you are in a flood plain historically at risk it is each householders’ responsibility to take preventative measures like door guards and air brick covers.”

“There is a lot house owners can do themselves.”

Roads around Bransgore saw large amounts of flooding
Roads around Bransgore saw large amounts of flooding

His call was echoed by former NFDC councillor Richard Frampton who told villagers in Bransgore: “If there is a ditch, dig it! If there is one in front of your property, get out and dig it out. Stop waiting for someone else to come and do it.

“By the time you’ve done that, the damage will have been done.”

Both villages were badly hit by flooding during the recent torrential downpour and were virtually cut off at one stage, with major roads in and out completely flooded.

Farmer Richard came to the rescue of one flooded homeowner by using his tractor to clear debris from a one-mile stretch of the Clockhouse Stream and has helped rescue stranded drivers.

He says people now need to follow his example: “There is always going to be a problem here which is not easily solved. But residents and landowners can mitigate the amount of flooding by at least keeping ditches clear.

“Everybody needs to pull together instead of waiting for someone else to do it. Sopley Parish Council are doing a really good job of being proactive and formulating a plan to help prevent flooding as much as possible. That’s what we need to do in Bransgore.

“Everyone gets upset about the flooding, but no one gets out and digs their ditches like they should. These ditches were once dug out by hand, so clearing them out regularly with tools is not that difficult.

“It is as clear as that, everybody is looking for complicated answers instead of doing something simple.”

The latest downpours caused a lot of flooding
The latest downpours caused a lot of flooding

Richard said he now hoped Bransgore Parish Council will follow Sopley’s lead and formulate a plan for the village which would see “everyone getting involved.”

But Bransgore resident Lisa Smart said: “Are we expected to go out with shovels on our backs? People are moaning but if we were told things we could do, we would – but it’s not going to be a long-term fix. Hampshire County Council needs to get out and clear the drains.

“You can’t offload their responsibilities to residents. We don’t have the equipment, and we pay the council to do it. We are having to pay out £4,500 to protect our annex from flooding so I find it quite offensive to be told to start digging!”

On the visit by the EA, Cllr McDonnell said: “We walked all the routes in the village and around identifying the problem areas and getting the relevant authority to deal with it.

“They are things people can do, and the EA gave us advice as to what can be done to help prevent flooding in the future. It’s not a small task, it’s a mammoth task but we can all do our bit.

“There is no point in waiting until the water is up at your door and saying to Hampshire Highways ‘I want some sandbags’.

Bransgore was virtually cut off at times
Bransgore was virtually cut off at times

“What you need to do is check the flood map on the EA website, so you are forearmed and forewarned. If you live in a flood risk area, install a door guard, or have poly sheeting ready to put over the door and weight it down.

“If you are a landowner, dig out your ditches, don’t wait to be told to do it by the authorities. If you are a resident and see a drain blocked by leaves, get a rake and clear it. I’ve done it myself, it takes minutes.

“Don’t sit there saying ‘It’s not my job’.

He said the parish council has flood advice for residents on its website but admitted that keeping streams clear is a “lot more complicated” adding: “It has to be done at the right time and in the right way for ecological reasons. For example, at the moment it is salmon breeding season.

“There can also be issues over who owns what part of the river.”

Local farmer Richard Frampton says people need to ‘get out and dig ditches’
Local farmer Richard Frampton says people need to ‘get out and dig ditches’

But he said the council was creating an ‘action list’ for rivers in the village with problems reported and logged.

A New Forest District Council spokesperson said: ”The council has and will continue to work with and support other flood risk management agencies to assist in reducing the risk of flooding across the New Forest.

“The role of NFDC is warning and informing the public and assisting – where required and based on our functions – in any response or recovery.”

They added that the ‘lead’ flood authority in the area is Hampshire County Council, which has been approached for comment. The A&T has also approach the Environment Agency.

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