Sandbag Fiasco “Beyond a Joke”


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Last week as the heavens erupted in Winchester, businesses along the railway station section of Stockbridge Road once again thought they were going to be swamped with flood water. Drains along the main road lifted, with water cascading everywhere like a fountain that couldn’t be switched off. Two of the drains were so badly damaged they need replacing.

For the third time this year, staff members at Winchester Today have watched as it rains and people come rushing into the shops to warn the business owners of what’s happening. They in turn try to stop the water from going over the pavement and into their doors.

Samira Haig runs the newly-opened Essenziale Beauty Salon and Café, and told Winchester Today that she had no idea of the problems: “If I had, I would NEVER have rented this place. Every time it rains I worry about what is going to happen.” 

By chance, a van was parked right outside Samira Haig’s shop. It was only because of this that buses and cars were unable to get near and send the water right over the pavement.

She has rented her premises for five months: “I was in horror when I saw this happening the first time”, Samira told me. “I rang the council; I rang everyone for help, even just for sandbags. Everyone was useless, sending me everywhere else instead of taking responsibility. Eventually I bought my own sandbags.” I point out to Samira that it shouldn’t be up to her to buy sandbags – or to think that they would stop the water: “I know, but I just couldn’t get any help. If it was a river, then MAYBE I could have had some sandbags. With this rain we have, I’m 100% going to be flooded at some point. Who’s going to pay for the damage? Everyone seems to be making an excuse. If it’s not environmental, it’s not a river – what is it? Who’s in charge?”

Although that I was told that the water was not sewage, the smell was absolutely disgusting. It was impossible to walk along the pavement outside The Albion, which also has to rely on sandbags to stop the water coming in to the pub.

We looked at the damage around us that had been caused by the water trying to escape: “Look at the drains there”, (pictured) says Samira: “Broken because of the force of the water. Even the pavement has moved.”

So why is it happening – and who could sort it out? The water does not come down the road section of the hill from Sussex Street and cause the problems; if it did it would have to take a sharp left and effectively have to travel uphill. It appears to be the pipes that are underground that are either too small, cannot cope because of another reason – or both.

A county council spokesman told Winchester Today: “The pipes that lead away from areas in Stockbridge Road and those running down from Sussex Street are just being overwhelmed. We now of course realise that some parts of the drains and pavement have been damaged because of the force of the water and we will get them repaired.”

As for the pipes underground, a Southern Water spokesman told Winchester Today: “The flooding in Stockbridge Road is the result of torrential rain that has overwhelmed the surface water sewerage system. This carries water from roofs and run-off from roads and is separate to the wastewater sewerage system. We understand how distressing flooding can be and we are looking at what can be done to reduce the risk of this happening again. However, regrettably, flooding may result from heavy and sustained rainfall such as that experienced.”

Watch this space.