Gallery: Bury St Edmunds campaigner’s calls for better flood defences ignored for 30 years

Monday, February 10, 2014
9:47 AM

A campaigner who says he has demanded better flood defences for 30 years has criticised the authorities after his and his neighbours’ homes were left just inches away from ruin.

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Residents of Gardiner Close in Bury St Edmunds spent the weekend clearing out gardens and garages that were plunged underwater on Friday as the nearby River Linnet burst its banks.

Ken Compton has led the calls to improve the area’s flooding measures ever since he moved to the area in 1982, but claims repeated warnings have not been heeded.

“I’ve kept saying it for 30 years but it seems to fall on deaf ears,” Mr Compton said.

“Nobody seems to want to take the responsibility, that’s the trouble. This could be sorted out in five minutes if someone comes up with the right gear.”

Mr Compton, a former railway engineer, believes the problem could be solved by strengthening a bank between houses and a nearby field where a lot of excess water runs from, as well as dredging the river.

Yesterday Eric Pickles admitted the government had made “a mistake” not dredging rivers in the Somerset area, but blamed the Environment Agency for providing poor advice.

Mr Compton joined the Horringer Court Residents Association in a bid to get something done about Gardiner Close’s flood defences, and its acting chairman Philip Jude echoed his frustrations.

He said: “When water pours off the fields there it runs into gullies and just floods everywhere.

“Ken has been trying to get it sorted, but everyone keeps saying it’s nothing to do with me – it’s not the farmer, it’s not the water board, it’s not the Environment Agency, it’s not the town council, or the borough.

“Every time we complain, it goes to the councillors, they say we’ll have another look at it, but no one does anything about it.”

Residents along Gardiner Close are now set to form their own residents association to renew efforts to improve flood defences after what both Mr Gardiner and Kath Bond - who has also lived in the area for more than 30 years - described as the worst flooding they had ever seen.

Disaster was only averted on Friday morning when firefighters pumped water from Gardiner Close back into the river on the other side of the bridge on Glastonbury Road, which is deeper, wider and has been dredged a number of times in recent years.

Mr Compton said: “All you need is soil to build up the banks, and to clear out the river. It would put an end to all these people’s anxiety.

“We always seem to wait until something has gone wrong until we try and fix it, by which stage it costs twice as much.”

A spokeswoman for St Edmundsbury Borough Council said that the authority had a limited involvement in providing flood defences beyond its landowner and planning role, but was an active member of the Suffolk Flood Risk Management Partnership.

She added: “We do work closely with our communities and partners, and we will explore the situation and give whatever advice and information to these residents as we can.”

The Environment Agency and Anglian Water were unavailable for comment.

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