Hambledon residents braced for new floods

Flooding in Hambledon earlier this year
Flooding in Hambledon earlier this year

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VILLAGERS are bracing themselves for another winter of flooding misery as groundwater levels continue to rise.

The jury is still out on whether Hambledon will flood again, but the early signs are not looking good.

Tony Higham, chairman of Hambledon Flood Action Group, is worried because the underground cellars beneath people’s homes are already filling up and are at the same level in November that they were on December 20 last year.

The first three months of this year were a nightmare for residents as cottages were flooded and roads turned into fast-flowing rivers.

As reported, a £4.3m scheme to build a pipe under the village’s main road to carry all the water has begun, but will not be finished until 2016.

It potentially leaves the South Downs village with two more winters at the mercy of the weather.

Mr Higham said: ‘The cellars in West Street are about six metres above where they were this time last year.

‘The levels are the same as about December 20.’

By January the water had risen high enough to burst through manholes and flood the village.

Because of the geology of Hambledon, there is a delay between heavy rain falling and flooding occurring. Groundwater drains from hills and can suddenly rise up to swamp the village.

Mr Higham said groundwater levels were still ‘relatively low’ but added: ‘This is all going to change in the next 10 days or so as this rain starts to have an impact.’

To make matters even worse, residents are worried they will not have adequate support should the village flood.

It comes after Hampshire County Council decided to abolish the 36 Accredited Community Safety Officer roles to save £1.5m.

Earlier this year the ACSOs provided round-the-clock support to flood-hit residents.

Mr Higham said: ‘We had firemen in 1995, sailors in 2001, and ACSOs in 2014. I don’t really care who it is – as long as we have somebody to do the job.’

Martin Clark, who runs Lotts General Store with his wife Debbie, said: ‘I really don’t know if we would survive if we had the flooding we had last year.’

He added: ‘At the moment we are the only shop in the village and I dread to think going through it again.

‘It’s like waiting for a train crash to happen.’

Councillor Roy Perry, leader of Hampshire County Council, said: ‘We have created a pool of emergency response workers from our staff. We already have over 20 employees who have volunteered to be called upon any time - day or night – to support community resilience.

‘These officers represent a range of community services and will be able to carry out tasks such as distributing sandbags, visiting vulnerable residents or providing information. We aim to increase this number to 50 staff.’