RESIDENTS have demanded action after flooding hit 330 Solihull homes in May – while the council has finally laid out its plans to prevent and respond to future crises.
Hundreds of residents had to evacuate their homes after a month’s worth of rain fell in under two hours on May 27.
Principal Flood Risk Engineer Edward Bradford updated a council chamber full of residents on the causes of the flooding and what lessons have been learned.
As we reported in June, many residents were angry at what they believed to be a failure to protect them from the ‘unprecedented’ event and the council’s response in its wake.
Areas in Blythe, Shirley West, Hockley Heath and Olton were ravaged by floods while major roads were rendered impassable and water networks burst their banks.
Many residents remain in temporary accommodation seven months on while others struggle with repairing their homes.
The residents who spoke at the meeting said they felt panicked, lost and did not know how to support themselves during the crisis.
Mum of two Lucy Clark, one of the founding members of the newly formed Nethercote Gardens Residents’ Association, said: “The flood in May was quite different to previous events we have seen and took us all by surprise.
“We were completely defenceless against the water.
“The effects on residents’ health have been visible. Some have looked fit to drop and unbelievably stressed. The situation has completely consumed them.
“We hope the council will do everything in its power to avoid this situation from re-occurring.”
Single parent Laura Yates, also from Nethercote Gardens, said: “There was a lack of collective knowledge of what to do in a flood event.
“My young son was in fits as he saw the wheelie bins flowing down the road. It must have seemed biblical to him.
“I know you guys (council workers) in your hi-vis jackets had all clustered together because you were getting so much grief, and I felt a bit sorry for you.
“But what good was the support 48 hours after? People literally could have been killed.”
Lucy and Laura explained the difficulties of being left to deal with insurance companies and getting lost in a confusing network of contractors and loss-adjusters.
Mr Bradford delivered the flood risk assessment, saying: “In terms of what we’ve been doing since May, our primary focus after the flooding was the make sure people were safe and well. We visited over 400 properties.
“We also provided sand bags and flood sacks, we carried out over 2,300 extra gulley cleanses and we have been working with partners to understand the wider water network to update our own database.
“Following concerns from residents, we also sanctioned the inspection of approximately 10km of ordinary water course around the borough.”
He mentioned potential investment in new flood defences such as embankments, flood walls and attenuation features.
He also said the council is attempting to secure government grants to help with a new ‘community wide avoidance and defence scheme’.
Cabinet member for the environment Tony Dicicco said the scale of the rainfall could not have been predicted and it was very difficult for any system to cope with.
Green Party councillor Tim Hodgson called on the council to submit some ‘compelling bids’ to update flood defences and said problems were due to a lack of preparedness.