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EXCLUSIVE
Saturday 22 December 2012

Penn Road flooded : Gardens flooded : Homes saved

Down-stream drains blocked by Thames Water negligence

Report and photographs By Paul Janik

On a drizzly Saturday morning residents at the bottom of Penn Road, Manor Park, begin to notice larges puddles in the road. Later about 11:00 water began to fill the road. Startled residents watched a lake forming as the water kept rising.

Remembering the last Penn Road flood in the summer of 2006, residents telephoned Slough Council's call centre but it was closed for the weekend. They then rang Thames Water, the local statutory supplier of drinking water and sewage services. Residents said Thames Water dismissed their concerns and told them to contact their local council. Meanwhile the water kept rising.

The police came and closed the flooded part of the road. The rising water spread into the front gardens. Still no help from anyone. Not even a single sandbag.

Residents were puzzled. They paid their council tax for a 7 days a week service, but when they really needed help from their council, Slough Borough Council was uncontactable and on holiday. Council tax is a daily charge for round the clock council services but not in Slough it seemed.

At 18:00 hours with water seeping beneath a front door and about to flood the ground floor, a resident called the Slough Party in desperation. So off I went with camera, torches and waders (reinforced Wellington boots combined with rubber trousers extending up to my armpits. I did not know what to expect.

Desperate residents, abandoned and neglected by the authorities, drove to B&Q and spent their own money buying sandbags and plastic sheeting. There was no time to waste. This was a real emergency but no sign of any help from Slough Borough Council or from Thames Water.

At the back of houses garden sheds were 60 cm (2 feet) in water. Items left on shed floors and in gardens were submerged in a sea of dirty brownish water. How much sewage is in the water ? anxious residents asked. Strong currents of flood water swept Goldfishes out of their ponds. They were never seen again.

Meanwhile old folk living in Northern Road called-out Thames Water to repair a broken water main. Thames Water arrived, pronounced it was flooding and not a broken water main and then left without doing anything.

Solar garden lights looked like floating metal disks.

Families stranded in homes

Children could not go out because the rising water was much higher than the tops of their Wellington boots. Adults were trapped inside too because not everyone had Wellington boots and some who did, left their boots in their garden sheds - now impossible to reach without Wellington boots.

The Underground Tunnel

The flooding came from an overflowing stream on the north side of Penn Road, east of the new Penn Wood school.

Water from the stream, which comes from South Bucks, is supposed to go under Penn Road and into a tunnel beneath 23 Milton Road. The tunnel is then believed to go beneath Staunton Road, on the west side of Manor Park recreation ground, and emerge in Granville Avenue playing fields at the rear of 38 Granville Avenue.

Water then enters an open stream and flows south across the playing fields towards the rear of 100 Waterbeach Road. At that location the stream goes underground again.

The stream then surfaces in Godophin playing fields on the west side of 15 Hughenden Road. From there the streams enters Baylis Park, goes beneath the Woodland Avenue guwara (Sikh temple) and disappears underground on the north side of the Paddington to Bristol railway line.

The Blockage

The entrance to the underground tunnel, at the rear of 100 Waterbeach Road, has a metal grating to prevent large objects entering the underground stream. Poor maintenance practises by Thames Water, who are responsible for some but not all streams in Slough, meant accumulated rubbish and other debris were not removed.

The blocked grating stopped water flowing away into the 'drain'. The stream overflowed onto the Granville Avenue playing fields starting a new flood.

The pressure of the flood water in the fields stopped more water coming out of the tunnel from Penn Road. Soon the entire underground tunnel from Penn Road was full of water. With increasing water gushing down from South Bucks and the tunnel now blocked, lakes started to appear in the lower parts of Penn Road and Milton Road.

The situation got worse. Minor flooding was reported at both ends of the Granville Playing Fields in Waterbeach Road and in Granville Avenue.

The flood water continues to rise and it starts to rain

With the water at their front doors, residents prepare for the worse. With no sign of the on holiday Slough Borough Council, the future looks gloomy.

Then out of the darkness came three shy heroes from the council's contractor Enterprise. Ignoring all the red tape and knowing that it was a Thames Water responsibility, they drove down to the Granville playing fields where they saw the flooding and the blocked grating.

In the pitch dark with only torches to see the problem the heroes, who didn't want to give their names, waded through the rising flood waters. After a struggle they successfully unblocked the large grating covering the stream's drain.

Immediately thousands of litres of water began poring away into the ground. In Penn Road at about 21:00 hours, the water level dropped a little. Half an hour later an Enterprise van with three wet and tired looking workmen appears out of the gloom.

Have you noticed any improvement

they ask. Yes everyone replied. Slowly the water began to recede and the lakes began to shrink.

Before the residents could properly thank the heroes, they dashed-off back to Granville playing fields to check everything there was still in order.

Anyone Responsible for the flooding ?

We learnt that streams flowing across Slough are sometimes the responsibility of Slough Council and sometimes the responsibility of Thames Water. Its a confusing muddle. No signs anywhere to say who is really responsible.

The Slough Times contacted Thames Water. They issue this brief statement

"We're very sorry for any inconvenience this flooding may have caused.

Our engineers will be visiting the area to help ensure that the surface water drain can cope with the heavy rainfall we are experiencing."

It was too bland, so Slough Times tried again. What about compensation for all the affected residents we ask. And is Thames Water responsible for the blockage that caused the flooding ?

Thames Water relented and stated

"Thames Water is responsible for the clearing of grating on this stream and if any residents would like to pursue compensation claims they can contact our customer centre and we will deal with these on a case by case basis."

Incidentally

Penn Road is on the borough's northern boundary with South Bucks. It is parallel to, and on the north side of, Northern Road. It is reached from Northern Road by Hatton Avenue and by Milton Road. Penn Road is near the south-west corner of Stokes Poges golf course.

Penn Road was once home to the architecturally impressive William Penn school, now demolished because of Labour's hatred of buildings older than 30 years. The school was recently replaced by Penn Wood primary school and a block of flats.

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