By Andy Hirst
A Huddersfield company is helping a young family with chronic flooding problems at their rural home due to a long-running battle with Kirklees Council.
Lewyn Clegg lives in a terraced cottage in Haddingley Lane, Cumberworth, with fiancée Natalie Dossor and their two young children but their cellar keeps filling up with floodwater.
Lewyn suspected the water is from a blocked culvert and dug a deep hole in his garden to uncover the culvert and show it wasn’t blocked on his property. He has now asked Kirklees Council to find the blockage which he’s sure is beneath a nearby road junction and fix it.
But the council says the old culvert is not on its maps and so has no responsibility to repair it.
This means Lewyn often has to use electric pumps to get rid of the floodwater from his cellar, over his garden wall and onto Wall Nook Lane near its junction with Haddingley Lane but the water has been coming back into the garden through the wall and gate, adding to the problem.
Huddersfield company Environmental Defence Systems Ltd make an alternative sandbag called FloodSax (www.floodsax.co.uk) which is used worldwide to solve flooding problems and when they learned of the family’s plight offered to help.
They have used around 30 FloodSax sandless sandbags to prevent the water flowing back into the garden and left the family with 40 more.
Lewyn said: “It depends on how high the water table is as to how bad the cellar and garden flood. The water runs from the field behind the cottage, through a culvert beneath the cottage and then under a road junction outside our front gate and into a field opposite.
“We’ve dug the hole to prove the culvert isn’t blocked on our land and we think it’s blocked under the road a few feet from our gate.”
The hole is so deep the house is now supported by scaffolding poles as a precaution against any risk of collapse and Lewyn added: “You can see the water which would normally be taken away from the property is static in the culvert. Due to a collapse in the culvert roof underneath the highway the culvert is now ineffective and consequently floods the basement when it rains heavily. The current situation means I need electric pumps which are now working constantly to pump the water away from the basement.”
Lewyn has rejected the council’s stance that it’s nothing to do with them.
He said: “It’s been established beyond doubt that it’s the responsibility of Kirklees Council to unblock the culvert underneath their highway.
“We dug the hole after the council’s main excuse for not fulfilling their civic duty was that the ‘ancient’ culvert was not on any of their maps and it was blocked under our land. With external surveys and groundworks experts we have been able to disprove both theories, leaving Kirklees with no plausible reasoning.”
Clr Naheed Mather, Cabinet Member for Environment at Kirklees Council, said: “We sympathise with Mr Clegg’s situation and we have been in contact with him for some time to provide advice.
“The council has looked carefully into the issue and we have concluded that it is a matter for the property owner to resolve. Water pumps had been installed in the property by a previous owner and it’s their operation and maintenance that is key to resolving the situation. That is the responsibility of the owner and not the council.
“In the interests of fairness we are unable to carry out work on behalf of an individual property owner which we would not offer to any other Kirklees resident.”
When asked if, generally speaking, the council is responsible for culverts beneath roads, the council said: “The council’s Highways Department can be deemed responsible to maintain flows in live (not redundant) structures clearly defined as watercourses under the adoptable highway, as well as drains designed to remove surface water from the highway only, as opposed to public and private sewers and drains serving properties.”
They said Lewyn could get contractors to dig up the road himself, adding: “Kirklees Council can provide support and advice to help Mr Clegg to ensure that any contractor undertaking work is approved to work in the highway by Kirklees Council and to ensure that any work undertaken is in accordance with the relevant highway statutory requirements.”
But they did say they would help Lewyn deal with water he is pumping from his cellar.
They added: “It is unlawful for third parties to discharge water onto the adopted highway with potential risks for other road users. With this mind, Kirklees Council will work with Mr Clegg to resolve this matter.”
Lucy Bailey from Environmental Defence Systems (above) and (right) the road junction
Environmental Defence Systems Ltd is based in Golcar and managing director Richard Bailey said: “This is clearly a serious situation for this young family and as soon as we heard about what was happening to them we wanted to help in any way we could.
“We just hope this situation can be resolved as quickly as possible as it’s clearly causing a great deal of distress and anxiety.”
FloodSax resemble large pillowcases in their dry state but once they are immersed in water the special gelling polymer inside absorbs the water and transforms the FloodSax into an instant sandbag but without the sand. They are way more environmentally friendly than traditional sandbags and are 96% biodegradable by weight.
When dry, they are very flat with a large surface area so can soak up water in otherwise inaccessible places such as beneath floorboards or where pumping equipment can’t reach.
Richard added: “The FloodSax will stop the water they pump out from running back into the property and dry FloodSax can also be used to soak up floodwater that can’t be pumped out of the cellar.”
* Copyright for this story belongs to freelance journalist ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire agency AH! PR (https://ah-pr.com/) specialising in stories for the media, press releases, blogging, copywriting, scriptwriting and applying for awards.