Investigation follows worst floods in 50 years in Braunton
Flood surgeries held after defences ‘overwhelmed’ by water in Braunton to find out why homes and businesses were still hit.
THE Environment Agency is investigating the newly installed flood defences in Braunton after they were ‘overwhelmed’ by water.
A flood surgery will be held in Braunton tomorrow (Thursday) for agencies involved to get a better idea of what happened when the village was submerged twice in 24 hours on December 21 and 22.
Businesses in Caen Street were devastated by the flooding when the River Caen burst its banks and between 20 and 30 houses were evacuated.
The Environment Agency’s flood defence schemes in Chalenors Road and at Hordens Bridge were unveiled in June and involved widening the river to help reduce the risk of flooding from a 1 in 25 chance to a 1 in 100 chance.
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Councillor Liz Spear, chairman of Braunton Parish Council, said it was ‘disappointing’ the flooding had occurred so soon after the �1.2 million scheme was finished.
She said: “It seems with all the rain over recent months the fields around Braunton and the River Caen were saturated and just couldn’t cope with the sudden heavy rainfall on the Friday night.
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“I have already had three officers from the Environment Agency down here with our MP Nick Harvey to look at what has happened.
“There has been talk of possibly widening the river again, and there is a drop-in flood surgery tomorrow to help see what can be done.
“The parish council want to thank everyone who has helped with the clean-up and the amazing camaraderie in the village, and to say how sorry we are for the people of Braunton.
“We will definitely be pushing the Environment Agency to see what can be done to improve the scheme.”
Tony Reed, who has owned Reed’s Butchers in Braunton since 1939, said this flood was the worst he had seen since August 1962.
The village was last flooded in 2004 when Caen Street was submerged under 4ft of water and 44 homes were evacuated.
Alison Serret, who owns Slees Home Hardware, was alerted to the rising water by a 4am wake up call from the Environment Agency.
She said: “We learnt our lesson from the last flooding and signed up to the warning calls, which gave us an hour’s grace to save what we could.
“We knew from last time where the water levels would come to and we just had to try and get everything as high as possible.
“I can’t urge people enough to sign up to these warnings, whether they are a home or a business.
“Once you see the water start to trickle down from Chalenors Road you know you have five minutes until you’re underwater.”
Darran Pimlott, who owns Caen Card Centre, also received the 4am warning and was one of the first on the scene.
He said: “When the river burst its banks on Chalenors Road we saw it just coming round the corner and knew that was it.
“I reckon there was about 3ft of water in the shop but some businesses which were lower down were even worse.”
Thousands of litres of water were pumped from Caen Street on the Saturday afternoon into the Estuary by special fire crews from Exeter.
Police, ambulance, coastguard and search and rescue teams also joined in the multi agency response to the flooding with help from across the South West.
Jim Faux, a senior adviser in flood risk management at the Environment Agency, was in Braunton investigating the defences on Thursday.
He told the Gazette: “If the defences had not been there, more water would have flowed into the village and the flooding down South Street and Caen Street would have been much worse.
“The flood defences widened the river from being able to take 18 cubic-metres of water per second to 25 cubic-metres of water per second.
“Anything over that will flow onto the street, and the volume experienced this time was a lot more.
“We will be investigating and seeing what we can do to improve things.”
Barnstaple, Bishops Tawton and Combe Martin were also hit by flooding, and the Environment Agency confirmed 75 properties across North Devon had been flooded in total.
Collard Bridge at Snapper was also completely swept away by the high river levels.
Drop-in surgeries organised by Devon County Council and the Environment Agency will be held in Braunton Parish Hall tomorrow from 12pm until 7pm, and at Bishops Tawton Village Hall on Friday from 3pm until 7pm.
Local people are urged to turn up with photos and footage of the flooding if they have it, which they can also send to firstname.lastname@example.org
Councillor Stuart Hughes, chairman of the Devon flood risk management partnership said: “I would like to thank all the agencies including district, county and South West Highways staff who have pulled together and worked tirelessly around the clock to deal with the many incidents affecting so many of our local communities and supporting those who were worst affected.
“I would also like to praise our town and parish councils for their vital help in what has been a tremendous team effort.”