MICHAEL LILLEY

Taking Action

for Communities and Environment

Flooding in the Ward and Action I am taking!

Source ? - Flooding with flood warning road sign in foreground

I wish to send a heartfelt message to all residents in Ryde Appley and Elmfield Ward and other parts of Ryde hit by flooding over the last few days. Do please look at other posts on this site which list information and practical advice.

Ryde Appley and Elmfield Monthly Ward Meeting is next Thursday 2nd November 2023 at 7pm at St. John’s Church Hall, High Park Road. This is open to all residents living and working in the ward and the issue of flooding will be at the top of the agenda. It is important to note that residents and I are working on establishing a Ryde Appley and Elmfield Residents Association so residents have a stronger voice especially when the community is hit by issues such as flooding. In the meantime I have spoken the MP, Bob Seeley and sent the two letters below after talking to residents and visiting Rink and West Hill Roads over the past few days. Please do contact me on michael.lilley@iow.gov.uk about your experiences of the flooding and details of the support you need.

Isle of Wight’s flood response under scrutiny as Councillor writes to Leader (onthewight.com)

Letter to IW Council, Environment Agency, Southern Water, and Island Roads

29th October 2024

Dear Cllr Jordan,

I am addressing this urgent email/letter to you as Leader of Isle of Wight Council but I am collectively sending it to IW Council, Island Roads, Southern Water, and Environment Agency.

On the 25th/26th October 2023, the flood defences to protect Ryde residents in the Wards of Ryde Appley and Elmfield and Ryde Monktonmead failed. These defences failed to protect residents in my ward of Ryde Appley and Elmfield particularly on West Hill Road and Rink Road. It is still too early to fully quantify the damage and human cost this flooding incident has caused but in talking to residents and visiting the flooded area, it is clear family homes, a supported living home, an imported local charity (Tidal Family Support) and local businesses within my ward have been severely damaged and lives devastated. I cannot highlight enough the distress that residents and those working in business/charity/supported living home are currently going through. People are devastated. This feeling of devastation and distress is throughout the area as my neighbouring ward has also been severely hit. I know my IW Councillor colleague, Cllr Karen Luicioni, in Ryde Monktonmead Ward, is separately advocating for her residents. I am closely working with Ryde Appley and Elmfield Ward RTC colleagues, Cllr Tom Hanley and Jenna Sabine in make sure our residents have a voice and their urgent needs are met.

Residents are very angry and have many questions to ask. They want to know what went wrong and urgently know how flooding of their homes, businesses and workplaces, will not be flooded again. They want to know how the lessons of this flooding disaster is going to be prevented in the future. They want to know how they are going to be supported through this difficult time of recovery. They want to know what help financially and socially are they going get and how are they are practically going to be supported. They want to know about compensation and most importantly who is going to take responsibility and who they can communicate with through this difficult time to get answers to their questions. I have already written to the environment agency and passed on residents’ questions collated by Ryde Town Council (see attached).  

The key issues that I wish to raise are as follows:

Please note I am and can only speak for residents in the Ward I am elected which is Ryde Appley and Elmfield along with my co- Ryde Town Councillors, Cllr Hanley and Sabine. I do wish to recognise my IW Councillor colleague, Cllr Lucioni,  in the neighbouring ward of Ryde Monktonmead who is speaking and listening to her residents who have been badly hit by the floods. We are liaising daily. I do also recognise IW and Ryde Town Council staff and staff from other agencies who have been on site.

  1. Immediate Needs of Residents and Families – We need urgently to provide local residents, businesses and charities such as Tidal Family Support with a package of support that is clear on who to go for help, what help is there including compensation and grants, regular meetings established and information delivered to the door, and a forum that enables them to be listened to so they can be part of the solutions to prevent such crisis not to happen again or at least an improved response to such natural weather changes/occurrences. Since Covid19, there was investment in writing community/area/locality resilience plans but my observation was these did not fully click into place and we need to learn from this incident to make sure there is improvement in response in the future. I have spoken to residents and they spoke of residents in wheelchairs that could not get upstairs to a dryer place but had to wait for emergency services, elderly residents that did not have family nearby to help and stranded with no electricity and means to call for help, cars continually driving through the flood water causing waves that poured more water into peoples homes with the police not responding calls to close the road, amongst many other observations.
  1. Understanding Anxiety caused by this incident – Residents are now in a state of shock and limbo and they are extremely anxious about whether they are safe. They have lost confidence in the local agencies especially the Environment Agency as they believe along with me (their elected IW Councillor and their elected Town Councillors Tom Hanley and Jenna Sabine) that the Flood defences at Simeon Recreation Ground were not adequately manually implemented at the critical time. They fear that there will be further flooding incidences and the situation will get worse. They urgently need reassurance and practical help. Some residents do have adequate insurance and have been able to move out to temporary accommodation, but others do not have insurance and unable to move from their homes. 15, West Hill, is a supported living residence and the staff team there have been magnificent but this community now has some residents remaining and other relocated. This causes a huge amount of anxiety for everyone involved. The charity Tidal Family Support has many very vulnerable service users (children and families) who had disrupted services. Local businesses have been put at risk and I spoke to one resident who works locally about their anxiety of loosing their job. People need firstly a package of practical support and help and reassurance (they need to know their community cares). There needs to be an agreed team visiting all affected households and businesses/organisations. Secondly, they need the opportunity to be able to ask questions of those in power and responsibility (there has to be openness and transparency). Thirdly, there has to be a short, medium and long-plan put into place to make sure that from 2024 onwards, lessons are learnt and we have adequate infrastructure in place to make sure residents are safe, protected, their homes are not devalued, they all have insurance, and they re-gain confidence and trust. The reality is we have to put residents’ anxiety of context in that they have experienced the trauma of Covid19, the cost-of-living crisis and now flooding. They are extremely anxious.
  1. Environment Agency and Flood Defences – From visiting the Simeon Recreation Flood Defence system and talking to residents, it is clear that the flood gates were not properly put in place. Residents did not have adequate warnings and not all flood gates were closed and ones that were closed only had two slats in place when 5 or 6 were needed. There seems to be poor communication between agencies and trying to find out who is responsible has been difficult. On the 26th October there seemed to be only one Environment Agency member of staff attending the area and she was unable to answer any of the local residents’ questions. There is huge question marks over the availability of sandbags which was totally inadequate. It was simply chaos. My view along with my residents is that if the flood defences in Simeon Recreation ground had been fully operational (properly closed) then the flooding in the area and devastation to people’s lives could have been prevented or at least reduced. Residents are totally dependent on an agency that is in my view anonymous and secretive. Residents were under the assumption that £5M flood defences would protect them and simply they did not.
  1. Agencies working “or not” Together – I believe and would welcome clarification that IW Council hosted an emergency response training workshop on flooding recently with all stakeholders. I also believe IW Council and all stakeholders have emergency response plans in place to manage such incidents. I raise this as I as a locally elected representative saw no real signs of all agencies completely working together. I do recognise that IW Council and Ryde Town Council staff did react in partnership with Ryde Aspire on the 26th October and subsequent days and attended the area and some residents received support but there was clear communication problems. I wish to acknowledge the compassion and support showed by the Veteran Hotel, Ryde Castle Hotel and Lemlec Electrical and Plumbing who came to the rescue of local residents.
  1. Blocked Drains on West Hill and Rink Road – On examination of surface water drains in the area it is clear they were totally clogged up with leaves and just not functioning. Who is responsible, Island Roads or Southern Water? Again in trying to put the jigsaw together of the critical flooding incident, there seems to be a variety of factors and once you start to put them together, there seems to be a number of failings that when you put together they cumulatively made the situation worse.
  1. Southern Water and Sewage Overflow Releases/Environmental Health Issues – Residents and local businesses/organisations’ properties have been contaminated by foul water. During the period 25th -29th October, Southern Water has released/opened 8/9 of the 15 sewage overflows daily and released raw sewage mixed with surface water onto Ryde and Appley beaches. The perfect storm of torrential rain and very high tide totally overwhelmed the antiquated drainage system that brings surface water and household sewage together that flows into the underground sewage pumping station at Ryde Esplanade and Appley Park. This I believe had the added affect in the flooding as raw sewage was observed floating back onto the streets. Residents have told me of seeing floating total paper and human excrement. My ward is a beautiful place to live but the reality is that there is an undesirable closeness of human residences and sewage systems. I have continually and continue to work with Surfers Against Sewage and Southern Water in getting a Ryde Water Charter that combines increasing the flow speed of sewage from Appley pumping station to Sandown as the first step to reduce sewage overflow into the sea in Ryde. The second step is having a solid surface water retention and diversification scheme put urgently in place. Clearing this combination of surface water and sewage overflow releases so close to households must be seen as an important and an  urgent Environmental Health issue and needs an urgent plan to rectify it. I raise my campaign in getting the Canoe Lake close to the flooded area to be repaired, cleaned and redesigned as a nature reserve and water retention/flood overflow site. Many of my residents have highlighted this. Historically, the Canoe Lake was built for this purpose and I believe there were pipes in place from the Strand and West Hill Road to divert flooding surface water which are no longer there. I believe that IW Council, Ryde Town Council, Environment Agency and Southern Water should urgently meet to discuss how in the next 12 months that a major local water retention/flooding prevention project (Canoe Lake) can be implemented and delivered. I personally have lost patience on hearing there is no funding to tackle the deterioration of the Canal Lake that in its own right is now a health hazard. I believe Southern Water has major funding that could be used immediately.
  1. Moratorium of all future large developments in Ryde South East until proper infrastructure in place – Residents in my ward have for many years spoken and shouted about the lack of joined up thinking in the improvement and development of Ryde East/South (Wards Ryde Appley and Elmfield and Ryde South-East). This area is simply on a hill with the highest points of Ryde on High Park Road and at the other end the lowest at Ryde Esplanade and Ryde/Appley Beaches. In extreme rain, Monkton Mead overflows and surface water from rooftops and on roads simply pours down the hill, this overflows the drainage/sewage system, homes are flooded, and  you see raw sewage on the beaches and floating down the streets. There is in my view a total blindness of planners and developers in understanding that building large estates at the top of the hill is going to increase the risk of flooding and pollution. We need urgently to take a step back and review the Ryde Place Plan and review the realities of climate change (wild weather and high tides) and the environmental consequences on the lives of our residents and homes in Ryde. Southern Water has been calling for all new developments to be future proofed and major water retention and drainage schemes be urgently part of any future Island Plan. I believe the huge Pennyfeathers (900 plus houses) development has now fallen and this land at present has no planned development. Westridge Farm/West Acre Park (472 houses) is currently being considered for Judicial Review (action taken by Ryde Appley and Elmfield residents). Ryde Town Council recently passed a recent motion calling for no large developments to proceed whether they had planning permission or not until there was an adequate road infrastructure in place and this should be implemented and delivered prior to any building work started. I urgently ask that this is extended to the environmental and climate change realties of increased torrential rain and inadequate drainage and sewage systems. Ryde cannot be continually developed until we “fix” current issues and have a proper joined up thinking development plan.

I am holding my monthly ward meeting at St. John’s Church Hall (High Park Road) on Thursday 2nd November 2023 at 7pm and the flooding in the north of the ward (near esplanade) is on the agenda. I wish to invite you and officers to come and discuss the above but more importantly listened to those who have had the trauma of the last few days.

The above only includes issues that have come from conversation of residents along with the questions raised by myself and my Ryde Town Council colleagues, Cllr Town Hanley and Cllr Jenna Sabine. Tom lives on West Hill and with his wife has tirelessly knocked on doors to find out the needs of residents along with myself. Cllr Sabine who runs Monkton Arts has had to not only support local residents but clean up her own flooded establishment. The Thursday meeting is an opportunity for residents to communicate first hand their experiences, needs and wishes for the future. I believe Strand Residents’ Association are also organising a meeting.

I acknowledge and thank you for already calling for an investigation on the flooding in Ryde, but I would urge you we have to take immediate action and not wait months for answers. I believe we cannot descend into a game of “not my problem, it is the other agencies responsibility”, we need joined-up objective collective and rationale answers and solutions as we are talking about human lives. My residents need answers, reassurance, help and solutions for the future. They need to know all agencies are working together.

Yours faithfully

Cllr Michael Lilley

IW Councillor for Ryde Appley and Elmfield

Ryde Town Councillor for Ryde Appley and Elmfield

Chair of Policy and Scrutiny Committee for Health and Social Care

Letter to Environment Agency – 28th October 2023

Dear Environment Agency,

Please can this email letter be urgently given to senior directors of the Environment Agency responsible for the Isle of Wight.

I am writing to you as the IW Ward Councillor for Ryde Appley and Elmfield which includes West Hill Road and Rink Road. These areas in my ward were flooded on the 25th/26th October 2023.

This has caused real hardship for many of my residents. This is more distressing for everyone when there is now clear evidence, seen by myself and my residents, that the floods gates at Simeon Recreation Ground had not been properly installed.

My residents and I are extremely angry. Many have had to leave there homes and stay in local hotels or with friends and families, until the flood damage is repaired as their homes are inhabitable. Some of my residents are vulnerable adults and children and their lives have been disrupted and put at risk. An important charity called Tidal Family Support on Park Road that supports some of the most vulnerable and poorest families on the Island, was flooded badly and their important work disrupted. Their entire ground floor including play areas and a sensory room have been trashed due to foul water. Local business disrupted. The human cost and distress is unsurmountable.

Lives of my residents and other residents of Ryde have been simply ruined at this time and questions need to be answered by the Environment Agency.

I attach a list of questions that were collated by Ryde Town Council from Residents affected by the Flood. The overall principle question is could the severeness of the flooding in the Wards of Ryde Appley and Elmfield and Monktonmead could have possibly been reduced or avoided if the flood gates had been properly closed.

Over £5M of public money has been spent on flood defences in Ryde and these simply failed in my opinion. I personally believe after seeing the evidence myself first hand and the evidence of numerous videos and photographs that this has been human error and the responsibility of the Environment Agency.

I am seeking a full enquiry and investigation and I am glad the Leader of Isle of Wight Council has publicly called for this.

I hold my next monthly Ward meeting on Thursday 2nd November 2023 at 7pm at St. John’s Church Hall, High Park Road, Ryde and I wish to invite a representative of the Environment Agency to attend and answer residents’ and my questions in person.  

I look forward to an immediate response and the attendance of senior Environment Agency staff at the meeting on 2nd November 2023.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr Michael Lilley

IW Councillor for Ryde Appley and Elmfield

Ryde Town Councillor for Ryde Appley and Elmfield

Chair of Policy and Scrutiny Committee for Health and Social Care

Questions from Residents collated by Ryde Town Council

QUESTIONS FROM RESIDENTS AFFECTED BY FLOODING AT MEETING ON
26TH OCTOBER

Background
A meeting was arranged by the IW Council for 2pm Wednesday afternoon at Aspire
for residents affected by flooding. 11 residents turned up at Aspire on Thursday
afternoon. Alison was at Aspire on another matter but agreed to take resident’s
questions and pass them to local Councillors and the relevant agencies. Lisa came
to join her to assist.
General Questions about what happened

  • Who is responsible for closing the gates?
  • Did the Environment Agency (EA) pass on the information to relevant people
    about closing the gates once the Amber warning had been given?
  • If so what time did they pass it on?
  • Did anyone come down at 6am to close the gates?
  • Lots of people didn’t get a text from EA even though they had signed up for
    the warnings although one person received one at 5.43am
  • General feeling that EA haven’t done their job.
  • Why wasn’t this declared an emergency?
  • The residents want a meeting with the IOW Council and the Environment
    Agency.
  • There should be a protocol/plan from all Stakeholders so residents can see it.
  • Everyone is disappointed that even with all the flood defences and
    arrangements that were in place after the last time, nothing seems to have
    changed and they are back in the same situation.
  • In future can residents go and close the gates?
  • Why did the Fire Brigade not come to pump properties out? SSE came and
    were helpful pumping things out.
  • Why did Island Roads take so long to close the roads? People were driving
    down East Street saying they needed to go down and get their car MOT’d the
    bow waves were causing further issues.
  • Why arrange a meeting for the day before (Wednesday) without publishing it
    and when people are busy sorting out their properties? Council
    representatives need to be in attendance for days following the incidents not
    hours.
    Communication
    Need for better communication from one central point. People aren’t going to have
    time to look at Facebook when they are busy dealing with the issues in their houses.
    Discussion on having some noticeboards with information – Put some notices at
    Aspire – Get a noticeboard at Eastern Gardens so people know where to come for
    updates. IWC staff should be available in affected areas.
    Clear Up
  • What about skips down the Strand and in East Street – Lisa said that was
    something Ryde Town Council (RTC) can look into.
  • Is it possible to have some space heaters and/or dehumidifiers?
  • Some people have insurance but didn’t notice they weren’t covered by
    flooding insurance. Discussion around whether the post code had been taken
    off the flooding area list as there was flood barriers in place.
  • Funding will become available from the government – there is no process to
    apply for it yet. As soon as that is made clear, RTC will produce a leaflet and
    put in everyone’s door.
  • One resident said Southern Water (SW) have been to one house and told to
    wait as it maybe that SW are responsible.
    Sandbags
  • Why couldn’t the lorry distribute them in other places? Some residents heard
    that the lorry driver was told to take sandbags elsewhere, but he came off his
    own back.
  • Why weren’t sandbags put in place as soon as the amber warning came?
  • The sandbag shed needs to have barriers around it so it doesn’t get flooded.
    Some vulnerable clients were given some specifically and they were taken by
    other residents.
  • Can sandbags be put in the corner of vulnerable streets to make it easier for
    people to collect them? Or 3 to 4 put in every garden?
  • What reassurances can they have for the next few days/this week as more
    rain is forecast?
  • Can they have empty sandbags to fill out with sand? – Lisa said although a
    license is required to remove sand from the beach, residents are welcome to
    take sand from the Marina arm to fill their own bags
    Pumping out water
  • What about water in Simeon Rec – it needs to be pumped out – concern
    about where water goes to – seeps back into other gardens?
  • Residents have had no guidance on pumping out their houses. Is pumping out
    making things worse for other residents? Where should they direct the water?
  • It would help if Island Roads could clear gullies and drains soon – they were
    blocked before this happened.
    Questions about the future
  • Are the pumps under Eastern Gardens going to be replaced?
  • Were the pumps turned off at Appley (SW)?
  • Can Canoe Lake be used for its original flood defence use.
  • The area needs a new pump station.
    Everyone is disappointed that even with all the flood defences and arrangements
    that were in place after the last time, nothing seems to have changed and they are
    back in the same situation.
    Residents feel they need to take control. They will lose value on their houses,
    insurances will go up. They are going to ask people to send information to the
    Strand Residents Association so they can collate it. (We are checking if this will
    include the whole affected area – not just Simeon St and the Strand).

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