In Basildon, Essex County Council amongst other things, are responsible for the maintenance of the underpasses. According to them, sorting out the frequent flooding that occurs in an underpass leading to Gloucester Park, which is to the north of Basildon town centre, is a low priority. This is not the only underpass in the town that floods but it is one of the worse affected ones. In addition to this, Gloucester Park, which is managed by Basildon Council, suffers from flooding issues in some areas after heavy rainfall. Combined, you have a situation where during the autumn and winter, and quite possibly the spring as well, access to and enjoyment of the park is compromised by flooding. This is how the situation has been covered in the Echo: Basildon: Gloucester Park underpass flooding fears.
We’ve done a little bit of checking and while October was undoubtedly wet, overall, the rainfall for the year is pretty much average for Essex – https://www.chelmervillage-weather.co.uk/wxgraphsrain.php Bear in mind that Essex is one of the driest counties in the country. What we’re seeing is a bit but not that much far from the norm. Despite this, as we’ve seen elsewhere – Again FFS! – the infrastructure that we have to rely upon to ensure we don’t get flooded is a) poorly maintained and b) can’t cope with anything above the norm. There’s no slack in the system. Even in normal circumstances, to have no slack in the system is wrong. If the predictions of the scientists studying climate change are anything like accurate, then basically, we’re really screwed. Let’s just hope those predictions are wrong.
So Essex County Council reckon a flooded and impassable underpass under a busy main road is a low priority. As you can see from the picture above, unless you just happen to have a pair of waders you can slip into, that underpass has effectively been shut to the public. You could take your chances crossing the busy main road but that would be pretty reckless to be honest. Any other options to cross the road get into the park are a fair way off and will require a lot of walking. For a variety of reasons, not everyone will be up for that. Basically, this is an issue of accessibility and as far as we’re concerned, Essex County Council are failing in their duty to ensure that.
As for the flooding in Gloucester Park, there’s a stream running through it which is one of the headwaters of the River Crouch. Basically, the park is on a flood plain. When Basildon new town was laid out in the 1950s and 60s, it was in an era when humanity thought it could control nature and didn’t worry about things like building on flood plains. While there’s a slowly growing understanding that we should work with nature rather than try to dominate it, when it comes to land management practice, particularly with some parks, there’s probably a bit of catching up to do. Gloucester Park is possibly one of those locations. That means giving a bit of considered thought to rewilding some areas after some judicious landscaping that would allow them to function as a flood catchment.
Having discussed the flooding in Gloucester Park, let’s return to the flooded underpass. Obviously, Essex County Council need to pull their fingers out and sort out the drainage. In the long term, as the underpass is on a flood plain and below the level of the stream that crosses Gloucester Park, it may be the case that the underpass will have to be closed off and a safe, pedestrian friendly crossing across the main road put in place. Just a suggestion:)