Will we ever get answers?

These were a couple of posts we put up after flooding hit Stanford-le-Hope and other areas of south Essex on January 14th: A lack of joined up thinking = a clusterf**k! and: After the flood…the questions… After the flooding, a promise was made by the two ward councillors for the Stanford West ward, Cllr. Shane Hebb and Cllr. Terry Piccolo, that there would be an investigation into what the causes of it were. Both councillors are members of the Tory ruling group on Thurrock Council. Piccolo is the mayor (a ceremonial role) and Hebb is a senior cabinet member.

We’re now in March and we were starting to wonder how the probe was progressing. Well, we got an answer of sorts in this piece from Thurrock Nub News: Water mystery. Council keeps cards close to its chest over Stanford-le-Hope flooding but emphatically states that it has nothing to do with A13 widening project. There’s quite a lot in the article about the various possible causes of the flooding. What we gleaned from it is that the investigations are ongoing but no final conclusions have been reached.

However, a couple of points really stood out for us. Firstly, Thurrock Council officers rejecting out of hand the suggestion that works on the overdue and over-budget A13 widening project played any part in the flooding. A project that is being overseen by the council. This is what they had to say: “The reason the pond adjacent to the A13 has been recently filled is because the A13 project redirected water from elsewhere into this location in order to carry out works on a nearby underground water pipe. This activity would have no bearing on water levels in Stanford-le-Hope. Allegations that the ongoing work on the A13 project, including the pond, could have contributed to the flooding in Stanford-le-Hope are incorrect.”

Maybe we’re sticklers for protocol and proper methodology when an investigation is underway but it seems pretty rum that one suggested cause of the flooding is summarily dismissed before the findings are published in full. Given the issues with the A13 widening project, people could be forgiven for thinking there’s something a bit suspicious about Thurrock Council not really wanting to discuss it as a possible cause.

Secondly, council officers were asked if after the flooding on January 14th, there was cause for them to revisit their policies that allow developers to build close to or on flood plains. The answer from the council was: ‘No.’ This is despite clear evidence that a number of low lying sites in Thurrock scheduled for development have experienced waterlogging and flooding. We honestly don’t know what else can be done to persuade the council officers concerned of the errors of their ways…

It has to be said that this investigation really should be getting carried out by independent consultants who have no stake whatsoever in ongoing infrastructure projects or in the formulation of planning policies. Normally, we’d question the use of outside consultants – in this case, if we’re ever going to get honest answers, it’s an absolute necessity to have an independent, objective overview.

As our home was threatened by rising floodwaters on January 14th, suffice to say, we’ve got skin in the game on this one. We’ve no intention of letting this slip until we have got some honest answers and a plan to ensure there’s no repeat of this flooding in the future.

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