Cause of flash flooding that hit a Wigan borough community still unknown TWO MONTHS on
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The cause of the flash flood that hit residents of Higher Folds on June 12 is still unknown but the council believes there were “multiple factors” at play. For those on Stirling Close who were left picking up the pieces yet again after a previous flood two years prior, they wanted answers.
Rumours over the cause of the sudden and dramatic flood at the time ranged from heavy rainfall causing the drains to overflow to a poorly maintained brook neighbouring the properties.
One council boss stated that there were several reasons as to why this recurred, but there are mixed messages from the different authorities involved. At the time of the emergency, a spokesperson for United Utilities said that Pen Leach Brook was in “poor condition” and “appears to be the cause of the flooding.”
However the Environment Agency (EA), which is responsible for the maintenance of the brook, has denied this.
An EA spokesperson said: “The flooding at Stirling Close in June was not from Pen Leach Brook but was caused by very heavy rainfall that overwhelmed the surface water drainage system. We are working closely with Wigan Council, United Utilities and the local community to identify action that can be taken to help reduce future risks.
“While the maintenance of watercourses is the responsibility of the landowner, the Environment Agency has powers to help maintain watercourses including Pen Leach Brook where we clear vegetation to keep the brook flowing and free of blockages.”
Flooding hit the area despite authorities spending almost £20,000 on prevention works nearby. A Freedom of Information request submitted by the Local Democracy Reporting Service found that between 2020 and 2023 the EA had spent £17,892.73 de-weeding, unblocking and grass cutting on the brook.
According to the response to the FOI provided by the EA, the Pen Leach Brook embankment and channel are due a grass cut as well as blockage clearance where required. This is expected to cost another £4,148.73.
The focus for all authorities is to try and improve flood prevention measures in the area. The council had spent thousands on flood gates at the properties affected but this did not stop the water getting into some homes.
Paul Barton, Director of Environment at the council, said: “We are currently working with the Environment Agency, the Forestry Commission and United Utilities to investigate and review the cause of flooding that took place in Higher Folds. However, in these types of situations, it is often the case that there is no single element that can be attributed as the cause of the flooding but rather a combination of factors.
“In this case we have implemented a multi-agency approach, including all stakeholders and the Higher Folds Flood Action Group, to carry out actions that will help reduce the likelihood of such events occurring in the future. The main focus of all stakeholders is to ensure the network is capable of discharging the maximum volume of flood water into the local outfall, we are also working with the Flood Action Group to discuss further measures that can be taken to improve local resilience.”
Everyone on the street back in June reported seeing human waste in the water so were concerned for their hygiene and safety
At the time, double flood victim Kerry Cunningham said: “Monday night, it had started raining and I was checking on the community centre when someone said it was flooding so I had to run back down and get the flood barriers in place. We do have metal flood doors installed after the last flood in 2021.
“Now two years later, it has happened again. They work up to a certain height but one of the air bricks installed failed. In the last flood we lost everything. Now we have lost everything again.
“The furniture, the flooring, the electrical goods, a lot of it has got to go. We have been given dehumidifiers by the council but we don’t have any power to use them.
“My concern is that once we have power, how are we going to afford the price of running that? It’s the fact that there is sewage in the water, the human waste is being left in people’s lawns, and sanitary products floating down the street.
“All that water has been in our house and soaked up by the furniture, it’s not like we can just wash the covers and go again. Everything has been contaminated.
“The chairlift will have to be replaced because we can’t use that anymore. The first time it happens it’s a freak accident, but when it happens again two years later they still say it is a freak accident.
“How often does it have to happen for it not to be considered a freak accident? It clearly isn’t at this point.”
Just next door Sue Andrews was just as badly impacted. Her and daughter Sharon had to spend the majority of 2021 living in the Greyhound after the last flood but were not willing to do that again.
Sue and Sharon, who has ADHD, ADD and additional complex needs were left with no electricity and effectively an unusable downstairs living area. In January 2021, they cashed in their £7,500 holiday in order to replace their flood damaged goods, but this time they didn’t have such a luxury.
At the time Sue said: “I think horse manure smells better than my living room at the moment. We just want out of this property now.”