It has been a wet start to 2016 with severe flooding just three days into the New Year.
Heavy rain at the weekend caused widespread flash floods. By Sunday evening the River Adur had burst its banks and was flowing across the road at depths of up to 40cms at Herrings Bridge in Twineham. Within an hour Mock Bridge at Shermanbury was also impassable.
Local communities in this area are used to the flooding – it has been a common occurrence here for centuries. However, even without Mayfields there is growing evidence that the situation is getting progressively worse.
Photos of these latest floods posted by LAMBS on the Mayfield Protest Facebook page reached more than 40,000 people and inspired comments from many local residents who are concerned, not only about the threat of Mayfields, but also about the increasing speed at which the waters are now rising:
“When I started work for Sussex River Authority in 1974 the fields alongside the west branch of the River Adur at Burgess Hill used to flood whenever there was heavy rainfall,” says David Malkin. “The water would then take several days to reach Mock Bridge at Shermanbury. Then developers built the Folders Lane housing estates and the floodwater ran straight into the Adur and reached Mock Bridge within a few hours! Imagine what damage 10,000 more houses would cause!”
This is a view also held by John Donaldson who worked for the National Rivers Authority and then the Environment Agency for more than 35 years.
“Already we are inundated with floods and we can hardly manage the system of water run-off that we’ve got at the present time,” he says. “There’d be even greater flooding without doubt – to land, to property, to road systems and transport – everything.”
Mayfields claimed in yesterday’s Argus that this evidence is “anecdotal” and that “the land would be re-levelled to withstand a one in 1,000 year flood with a complex drainage system if plans went ahead.”
Despite a growing tide of overwhelming evidence Mayfields also claims that flooding in the area is confined to the river channels and that no properties have ever been affected.
However, according to strictly non-anecdotal figures obtained from West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service* there has been flooding to properties here every year for the past five years. LAMBS also has hundreds of photographs of the countryside throughout the area including ones of homes which have been devastated by flood water.
“This area, these roads, flood regularly each year,” says Evie Bentley on Facebook. “No one should be tricked into thinking this is a good plan!”
“These roads are where I live,” says another Facebook follower, Giles Welsh. “It is well known as a flood plain and I totally expected this to happen today; just like it will for probably 20 other days this year. Unfortunately greed is a huge driver and the idiots just don’t see or won’t care about the flooding.”
Mayfields has now submitted its proposals to Mid Sussex Council in preparation for the Examination of the District Plan this spring. Among these documents in an artist’s impression of the new town proposals superimposed on a map of the watercourses – taking no account of the acres of land also affected by widespread flash flooding. However, even with just the waterways clearly marked on the map surely whoever created this watery picture must, at some point, have stopped and thought “this is nuts!”
*Freedom of Information Request.