Residents 'right' to question causes of catastrophic floods which swept through Catcliffe

Flooding in CatcliffeFlooding in Catcliffe
Flooding in Catcliffe
A “PROPER review” featuring flooding experts has been promised to investigate the reasons behind the devastation of Catcliffe and whether recent developments played an unwitting part.

Questions have been raised about whether new flood defences, credited with helping to save the town centre and Parkgate from the effects of the water, contributed to the deluge which left much of Catcliffe under deep water.

The review will also look at whether nearby developments at Waverley, created since the village last flooded in 2007, had any impact, from additional ‘run-off’ water from roads and roofs, which goes into drains rather than being absorbed by the ground.

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Council leader Chris Read confirmed: “There will have to be a proper review undertaken. Engineering and flooding experts will look at whether there have been any unforeseen consequences.”

Flooding in RotherhamFlooding in Rotherham
Flooding in Rotherham

Initial expert reaction was that the village’s fate was sealed by record water levels in the River Rother, between 15 and 20 cms higher than the previous high.

However, Cllr Read said: “It is entirely understandable that people ask the question.

“We don’t think it has been adversely affected (by the changes), but it has to be asked.”

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One known issue is that Rotherham’s suite of flood defences is not yet complete, the council still has a shortfall of £29m to complete the package.

Flooding in WhistonFlooding in Whiston
Flooding in Whiston

That money must come from central Government, but the authority has yet to get the funding confirmed.

“We knew the work wasn’t finished last week, we really do know it wasn’t finished now,” he said.

MP Sarah Champion has raised questions over the timescale for alerting villagers to try to protect their belongings and evacuate their homes.

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She held a surgery on Friday afternoon at Catcliffe Memorial Hall, which hours later became the emergency rest centre. There was some road flooding when she arrived and an expected exit route was impassable by the time she came to leave the village.

But there was no indication the parish council had been warned of the growing threat, she said.

Firefighters had been knocking on doors to warn people of the rising water at 4am on Saturday, only four hours before homes were inundated, she said, leaving residents with little time to salvage possessions and leave their homes.

One family entered a rescue boat via a ground floor window and, worried for security, asked firefighters to return and close it.

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By the time they got back, the window was below the water-level, she said.

“It seems a lot of MPs are raising the lack of an early warning on this. That really concerns me,” said Ms Champion.

“When I spoke to the minister, she was asking if everyone was signed up to flood alerts. No-one told me they had an alert by phone.

“I spoke to the area director of the Environment Agency. He said they had not actively been opening or shutting flood gates, not doing active flood management.

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“I don’t know if they should have been, and whether that would have helped,” she said.

Cllr Adam Carter has called for Rotherham Council and the Environment Agency to “take Catcliffe seriously” with a “bold and pro-active” plan to make good previous promises that flooding could not re-occur.

“The council and Environment Agency promised it would never happen again and those promises were hollow,” he said.

“People have been flooded out twice in 16 years. Residents cannot get house insurance.

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“To have this happen once in a lifetime is bad enough. Twice is disgraceful.

“Residents feel very angry and frustrated.

“It seems flood defences worked for Kilnhurst, Parkgate and the town centre, but failed spectacularly for them.

“It is totally wrong that this has been allowed to happen,” he said.