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Witney residents form group to fight back against floods
Buy this photo These sheep made their way up to higher ground near Crawley after the River Windrush burst its banks
RESIDENTS in Witney have created a new group to help tackle flooding in the town, which was hit again this week.
The River Windrush has burst its banks several times in recent years and residents living nearby say they want more to be done to improve defences.
The group is led by Agnes Kocsis. In a statement, she said: “Business and residential community support are needed to ensure that all watercourses are well-maintained.
“We would like to make a communal plan, together with businesses and West Oxfordshire District Council.”
She said this could be done through improving access to sandbags and putting pressure on insurance companies to take a proportion of flood risk as part of their business.
Many homes and businesses around Bridge Street were inundated in 2007 after torrential rain on Friday, July 20, caused a surge in water levels. The Wychwoods villages also suffered severe flooding and the road bridge over the River Evenlode in Charlbury was seriously damaged.
Among those affected by this week’s flooding was the Witney Glass company, in West End, which was due to reopen on Monday after the Christmas and New Year break.
Staff instead spent the day clearing away water.
Partner Michael Lally said: “We have had the water in and have just been mopping up. There isn’t much business at the moment.
“We’re still expecting more water, so we’re on tenterhooks at the moment.”
When asked about the potential cost in damage to the business, Mr Lally said it was “impossible” to say but that his insurance premium had risen to £5,000 since the floods in November 2012.
Antique furniture shop Witney Warehouse also spent Monday cleaning up after it was flooded again, leaving director Gary Soame unsure whether to carry on.
The shop, on the West End Industrial Estate, was shut for four months after being flooded on November 26, 2012, when six inches of water flowed into the building.
The Rose Revived inn at Newbridge was still open on Monday despite the swollen river outside
Stock worth more than £10,000 was ruined. While it was covered by insurance, it took a long time before it was paid out.
Mr Soame, who runs the business with partner Justine David-son, said: “The shop has been completely flooded again.
“It makes you think whether you should carry on or not, especially as my flood insurance excess has risen from £500 to £20,000.
“Nothing was done after we flooded in November 2012. We’re left feeling disappointed and it’s terribly frustrating.”
Mr Soame said he expected to be closed again for at least a month, which would cost about £20,000 in takings.
And Witney residents living close to the river fearing their homes could be affected by flooding once again.
Accountant Angela Caiger, 54, who lives in Crawley Road, said brickwork at the front of her house was soaked through because of the constant rain in recent weeks.
She said: “The rain has actually come in through the bricks, so I have had to put plastic sheets up to stop it coming through.
“It’s now a case of getting something to drain the water away.”
Pat Dingle, 69, from Bridge Street, said: “I moved my car, which was parked at Wesley Barrell, because I lost my car there in the 2007 floods.
“It’s horrible to be flooded and you just feel helpless. I was up twice in the night to check the river level.
“In 2007, I was out of my house for a year as the whole of Bridge Street went under. So when it gets like this, it’s a great worry and you just think ‘here we go again’.”
Patricia Aldridge, of West End, said: “We have got sandbags and barriers up and got the pump going.
“We have taken the precaution of moving all our antique furniture in the living room.”
Keith Webb, 70, who lives with wife Rosemary in a flat in Riverside Gardens, said they had moved out, due to the threat from the river.
He said: “When we left, the water was getting close but we’re not sure if it’s got into the flat yet. It looked like it was still coming up.
“We have sandbags but I don’t think they will necessarily work.
“Because we’re on the ground floor, we can’t move things upstairs, so we have just put some things up on to others to protect them. We’re just hoping for the best.”
The 2007 floods left 1,631 homes uninhabitable across the district and affected 72 businesses.
Since then, more than £1m has been secured by West Oxfordshire District Council for a programme of flood defence improvements in conjunction with Oxfordshire County Council, the Environment Agency, Thames Water and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Jo Swanton, 38, a fire safety trainer, who lives in Crawley Road, praised the council for its efforts.
She said: “My house used to flood almost every other year, but the district council installed flood defences about seven years ago. So they have solved the problem as much as they can.
“So I should be fine. The only problem will be if the river bursts.”
Flooded fields near Cote
In nearby Crawley, Dry Lane, which crosses the River Windrush on a bridge, was closed after the river burst its banks and residents were keeping a close eye on the level of the water.
Gill Proctor said: “On Sunday lunchtime we put out sandbags.
“We have had problems caused by people driving along the bridge in 4x4 vehicles and causing bow-waves in the water.
“Last time when it flooded really badly in 2007, our neighbours had to be evacuated from their house for six months.”
The Rose Revived pub at Newbridge was still open on Monday, although water from the rivers Thames and Windrush had covered the beer garden.
Barman Steven Lewis said: “We’re not closed yet but business is slower.We will wait to see what happens but we’re hoping it will gradually go down.
“The whole garden is under water and it’s starting to creep up into the car park.”
And Prime Minister and witney MP David Cameron was not spared from the effects of the poor weather. His constituency home in Dean suffered a leak in the roof and a power cut, while a stone wall outside collapsed.
And roads in Carterton were under water on Monday, with Monahan Way affected close to the sports pavilion and repatriation memorial garden.
Norton Way and the Alvescot Road entrance to Carterton from the Willow Meadow car park were also affected by flood water.
Water levels on the River Evenlode remained high yesterday, with extensive flooding of fields all along the valley from above Kingham to Hanborough and Cassington, where the river joins the Thames.
By lunchtime yesterday, West Oxfordshire District Council staff had issued 2,500 sandbags for homes and businesses at risk of flooding.
Supplies of sand and bags to fill are available for residents and businesses at:
- Ascott-under-Wychwood: Tiddy Hall
- Burford: Car park, Tanners Lane
- Charlbury: Bowls Club, Ticknell Piece Road
- Chipping Norton: Greystones council depot on the A361 south of the town
- Clanfield: Carter Institute car park
- Milton-under-Wychwood: Village hall
- Northmoor: Village hall
- Shipton-under-Wychwood: New Beaconsfield Hall
- Standlake: St Giles’ Church
- Woodstock: Council depot, Union Street.
For the latest information about flood warnings and alerts in West Oxfordshire, see the Environment Agency website or call the Floodline on 0845 988 1188.
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