Environment Agency flood alerts on the Rivers Tillingham and Rother stayed in place until mid-week after days of rain, with its inevitable side effects. And, for many, it was time for crossed fingers and a concerned watchfulness – because Rye and its surrounds faces threats from both its rivers and the sea.
Rye’s Emergency Action Community Team (REACT) were keeping a careful eye as events progressed, and videos on their Facebook page showed how high the Tillingham was rising before the sea gate rose and allowed the water to escape.
Some water did not go away though and the playground on The Salts looked more like a series of paddling pools – and across the river water was not draining away from the sheep pastures either. Further heavy rain on Thursday however was not expected to create further problems.
The government’s Meteorological Office warned on Thursday that there might be some surface water flooding as well as possible travel disruption, along with gale force winds in exposed areas, but the Environment Agency did not expect river levels to rise beyond those seen earlier in the week.
Earlier in the week some of the usual problem areas reared their heads again and another REACT video shows cars inching through a large pond in Mason Road alongside the former school. There were also problems again in the Winchelsea Road by the Tillingham Bridge where flooding has occurred in the past when there have been very high tides.
When plans for developing that site with housing and a new community centre were recently discussed by Rye’s Town Council concern was expressed both about general flooding risks in the area and the specific inability of local drainage systems to cope with heavy rainfall.
Because much of the land locally is below sea level, which is why the rivers are gated off at times of high tides, water has to be pumped uphill to remove it and questions have been raised about the ability of the water company’s local pumping stations to cope.
However river water has been able to escape, so far, when the tide turns, but high tides are predicted next week – which may cause further problems if the tide is accompanied by a surge (as it was in early December two years ago). That episode caused some flooding, and damage, but the rising water did stop (luckily) only a few inches below the top of the flood defences in town and down along the riverside to the harbour mouth.
But recent floods in various parts of the UK indicate that the weather is becoming less predictable – and more dangerous. And in York a river gate failed and resulted in many homes being flooded, which (in theory) should not have been.
On our Opinion page John Minter expresses concern about the assumptions on which Environment Agency plans are, and have been, based while Granville Bantick writes about other measures which may be needed to protect homes.
Photo: John Minter