BLOCKED drains have been blamed for devastating flash flooding – but council bosses say it could not have been avoided in the extreme weather.
Scores of residents battled to save their properties on Monday when three weeks of rain fell in only one hour – causing unprecedented flooding, transport chaos and wrecked homes.
Landlords, residents and councillors blamed the flooding on poorly maintained council drains, claiming they failed to handle the seemingly endless torrent of rainwater.
Chris Cordell, 51, of Lincoln Road, Portslade, said his family home has flooded twice in a week because “nothing has been done” about drains outside his property.
He said: “My family has to put up with it on a regular basis each time we get a heavy downpour. Both my house and garden suffer torrents of flooding because the drain gullies outside our house are insufficient to take the water away.
“We need bigger gullies and more pipes going into the storm drain. I keep telling those concerned but they don’t appear to want to listen. I despair at the amount of council tax and water rates I pay only to receive a third-rate service.”
Green council leader Jason Kitcat received a barrage of complaints from disgruntled residents on Monday night after he tweeted that Brighton and Hove was “vulnerable to surface water flooding”.
Jean Brooks, from Brighton, replied: “Maybe if the council spent money cleaning drains as they did years ago we would not have all these floods.
“The council go round cutting grass and leave it to fall in the drains. No wonder it’s flooded.”
Another user responded that a quarter of the city’s drained were blocked.
A landlord in Wilbury Road, Hove, had two of his properties destroyed by flooding this week after a drain became blocked, forcing a ”tidal wave” of water to surge into a young woman’s front room.
The man, who wished to remain anonymous, estimated the damage could cost more than £80,000.
Councillor Gill Mitchell, Brighton and Hove Labour Group’s environmental spokeswoman, said: “It is true that the city is particularly susceptible to surface water flooding, especially in weather conditions like those we saw earlier this week. However, we in the Labour Groupwarned the Green administration earlier this year over the state of the drains, urging them to take action where residents were reporting issues. The Green council now needs to urgently assess what action it needs to take to prevent a repeat of the scenes we saw earlier this week.”
However, Brighton and Hove City Council said Monday’s flooding was an “exceptional weather event” and the drains were “not designed to handle such volumes of water”. In some cases, it added, the drains were blocked by ice from hail stones.
The authority said servicing of gullies across the city was carried out by a private contractor and were cleaned either on a 12-month or 18-month schedule, based on how quickly they filled up using data from the previous five years. There are more than 20,000 gullies in the city.
Penny Thompson, chief executive of Brighton and Hove City Council, said: “Following the disruption caused by yesterday’s storm, we sought to provide good information and identify vulnerable residents to ensure access to relevant services.
“The flooding and lightning damage was very localised and severe. Initial reports show more than 40mm of rain fell in just two hours. This is approximately the monthly average amount of rainfall for all of July.
“Council staff and managers responded calmly and efficiently to this unforeseen weather event. Our emergency arrangements in the council worked well in enabling us to sustain services.
“However, we are reviewing how we managed to learn lessons for the future. We are working to help residents living in the flood affected to clear up after the storm.”