Crewkerne Town Council agreed that flooding caused by blocked drains needed urgent action when they considered requesting the use of South Somerset District Council’s gully cleaning vehicle at this month’s Planning & Highways Committee meeting. Steven Paine, whose wife Josephine is the proprietor of Milly’s Antiques in East Street, addressed the council in the open forum session. Mr Paine said: “We have been flooded four times, twice before opening the shop at the end of May this year. We have had to rent a dehumidifyer and on three occasions needed to vacuum out flood water. There are four drains in East Street that are full of silt. The drain in the middle of the road has been named the ‘Crewkerne Geyser’ as it pumps out water to about 1 ft high, which then causes a deluge down through East Street.”
Mr Paine also pointed out that cars are splashing the overflow of rain water up against the buildings and in many cases damaging the mortar from the base of the properties up to about 4ft high. Residents are also unable to step out of their front doors without being drenched by the ‘splash up’ from passing traffic. Fellow East Street resident Colin Coggan backed up these concerns. Mr Coggan said: “The gully overflow is like the stream that runs down Chard high street.”
The cleaning of the drains comes officially under the remit of Somerset County Council, whose current policy is to clean them once every four years. Their Highways engineers were aware of the problem and had agreed to visit certain drains with their specialist camera and cleaning equipment. Crewkerne Town Council agreed that they would identify which gullys needed cleaning and ask Highways to inspect all of them. They would also request that a date be confirmed for the gully cleaning operation. The problem of blocked gullys is slowly moving through the town’s whole drainage system and town councillors agreed that if the county council couldn’t provide the assistance needed to resolve the problem, they would enquire about hiring SSDC’s drain cleaning technician with the gully cleaning machine.
Local resident Ben Hartshorn recently dug out one of the blocked drains in Court Barton, to shock Somerset County Council into taking action. Mr Hartshorn said: “I’ve been trying for years to get Highways to empty blocked gullys in Crewkerne. Last year Mike Fear, Assistant Highway Service Manager wrote to say ‘we are able to do an additional reactive gully cleaning round to cover the centre of Crewkerne, early in 2017’ but nothing happened. In February Mr Fear wrote that they were hoping to fit in an extra round just to cover the streets in the centre of Crewkerne and that their contractors would have until the end of March to complete the task, but still nothing happened.
“In April, the cleaning gang were programmed to visit Crewkerne again to finish the round but as far as I’m aware still nothing has happened. So I’ve dug out one in Court Barton myself. It took about 30 minutes. The drain hadn’t been cleaned in a decade or more. We have four blocked gullys in Oxen Road and there are three, I think, on the west side of Market Street. Undoubtedly, there are many others around the town, leading to dangerous road conditions, especially for more vulnerable users such as pedestrians and cyclists.”
Residents in East Street, who have taken to protecting the entrances to their homes and businesses with sandbags every time that it rains persistently, are hoping that with the town council’s full support, a reactive gully cleaning operation led by Somerset County Council will soon take place and resolve the problem of flooding caused by the overflow of rain water due to the blocked drains and gullys.
(Photograph contributed by Noor Limmer)