Does anyone actually give a s**t?

We had a little stroll round the back of Stanford-le-Hope on Saturday 13 November. The aim was twofold. Firstly to take a look at the streams that run behind Victoria Road. Streams that when we’ve had heavy rain, have sent floodwater into low lying parts of the town. The aim was to see if we could spot factors that would lead to the streams flooding. Suffice to say we did find them! Secondly, it was to have a look at the eastern end of the Stanford Meadows housing development that’s being built by Persimmon Homes. This was to see if there was anything abut the new estate that was contributing to the flooding issues in the town. There was. It was also to see if the developers were going to keep their promise about pedestrian access into the town centre. From what we saw, to date, there’s no sign of that promise materialising.

We’re presenting this as a photo essay. It’s split into three parts. The first deals with the flooding issues. The second deals with the unfulfilled promises from Persimmon Homes. The third is a bit of a rant…

Flooding

These are the two most recent posts we’ve written about the flooding situation in Stanford-le-Hope: Passing the buck:( – October 26, 2021 and: Again FFS! – October 21, 2021. As we mentioned in both these posts, there are number of contributory factors. One is the state of the streams flowing through the town. These are Horndon Brook and Stanford Brook, both of which meet up to form what eventually becomes Mucking Creek. As you can see from the above two images, plus the header, one issue is the amount of rubbish and debris that’s been allowed to build up in the stream, creating blockages which contribute towards the flooding when there’s heavy rain. It’s the Environment Agency who are responsible for any works needed on the above mentioned streams and creeks to mitigate future flooding issues. As far as we can make out, they’re aware of the situation in and around Stanford-le-Hope. As yet, we’ve not heard whether they intend to pull their fingers out and undertake any such work.

This shot is of the main attenuation pond that Persimmon created at the eastern end of the Stanford Meadows housing development. The thinking behind this is that it will take floodwater coming from Horndon Brook. Back in January this year (2021) when we had serious flooding issues, the pond could not cope with the amount of floodwater flowing into it. Basically, it failed, sending floodwater down towards Kingsman Road and Butts Road. As you can see from the above image, in the intervening spring and summer, there has been rampant reed growth right across the pond. Sure, reeds provide a great wildlife habitat, but when they cover an entire attenuation pond, they significantly reduce its holding capacity, thereby increasing the flood risk for the streets just to the south of Stanford Meadows.

The top shot is from the road bridge by the railway station. As you can see, the stream has been allowed to become choked by plant growth, albeit that some of it is dying back now we’re well into the autumn. As this borders the railway station (what’s left of it), as far as we can make out, according to the Environment Agency, it’s the responsibility of Network Rail to keep the stream clear. Buck passing again. Also, what, if any, expertise do Network Rail actually have when it comes to clearing streams? The bottom shot, taken on Monday 8 November is of Mucking Creek as it crosses Stanford Warren. Trust us, there is a creek there! In all the years we’ve lived down here, we’ve never seen the creek get as overgrown as this where it crosses the Warren. Again, this amount of unchecked reed growth reduces the carrying capacity of the stream, making flooding more likely in the event of heavy rain. As this section of the creek crosses the Warren which is a nature reserve managed by the Essex Wildlife Trust, it may be the case that it’s their responsibility to keep it clear. A tricky balance to strike between habitat conservation and flood risk mitigation…

Broken promises

The site of the Stanford Meadows development is bounded by the railway and Horndon Brook to the east, the A1013 to the north west, and existing residential areas to the south. Vehicle access is via the A1013. There’s no way we can make out that pedestrian access can be made into any of the existing residential areas to the south. The only pedestrian access is via a newly built pavement along the south side of the A1013. So for what is billed as a development close to Stanford-le-Hope town centre and railway station, the truth is, pedestrian access to both requires walking at least a couple of hundred yards in the opposite direction down to Rookery Corner before you can start walking in the right direction back along London Road!

A few years back when the Stanford Meadows development was first mooted, we went along to a ‘consultation’ organised by Persimmon Homes. I expressed my concerns about pedestrian access to and from the development to one of the representatives there. She assured me that the plan was to build a new footpath going east from the development to link up with the existing path alongside the streams. As you can see from the top one of the three images above, the new path peters out just before the stream and as things stand at the moment, there’s no sign of a new footbridge across the stream being built. Also, as you can see from many of the photographs above, the existing path and bridges are an absolute state and not a pleasant place to walk. To put in new bridges, a properly surfaced path, decent lighting and most important of all, ensuring all of these assets were flood proof, would require expenditure going into six figures. Can you imaging Persimmon Homes forking out what could amount to over half the sale price of one of the new homes in the development to put all of this in? We’d love to be proved wrong but somehow, we don’t think it’s ever going to happen. As for the residents who would like easy and safe pedestrian access from Stanford Meadows to the railway station and town centre, it’s a case of so near, yet so far.

A lack of joined up thinking

On here and also over on our sister blog, The Stirrer, we’ve banged on about the lack of joined up thinking from local authorities and planners. We’ve also made a few pointed comments about the buck passing we’re witnessing when it comes to the authorities and agencies concerned taking responsibility for the flooding issues we’ve experienced and will inevitably do so again in the future. Also, we’ve had a few digs at the idiocy of building on flood plains without adequate mitigation measures being put in place. You can add to this the sheer lack of consideration for pedestrians forced to walk half a mile more than they should do as a result of the new development they have moved into being in a piss poor location that should never have been built on.

All of these failures impact on the quality of life of many residents in Stanford-le-Hope. The buck passing, the failure to own issues and the lack of a holistic overview and anything remotely resembling a joined up solution to the issues we have to deal with are, to put it bluntly, doing our heads in. They’re symptomatic of what in the past we’ve described as ‘institutional rot’. This is when the authorities and agencies who are supposed to serve our interests start to fail in a way that becomes harder to reverse the more it goes on. It could be argued that this is the start of a more widespread system failure. This is why in our anger and frustration, we’ve asked the question that forms the title of this piece: Does anyone actually give a s**t?

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