Anglian Water discussed how it prevents homes flooding in the Fens - and then the area flooded...

Anglian Water at Fenland District Council's Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting in December.

Two weeks before the the Christmas Eve floods, Anglian Water met with councillors in December to outline the work undertaken to prevent homes in the Fens from flooding. - Credit: Zoom / Ian Carter

Anglian Water told councillors about its work to prevent homes from flooding in the Fens – and just two weeks later the area was flooded again.

A representative from the water body met with Fenland District Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee last month on December 7.

Briony Tuthill, a public engagement manager from Anglian Water, answered extensive questions from councillors on a range of issues, from infrastructure concerns to delays in responding to significant leaks.

But after the 2014 floods, Councillor Fred Yeulett wanted to know more about the measures put in place to prevent any further flooding, particularly in March, and whether there were any future mitigation projects planned.

Ms Tuthill replied: “I know there was significant flooding in 2014 and following that we undertook some extensive CCTV surveys of our sewers and also de-silted where we found some sewers had levels of silt within them.

“We’ve also conducted a survey of the outfalls on the old course River Nene. We have updated our models so our hydraulic models for March can help inform future investment pieces around that.

“And there has been an attenuation pond as well that has also been de-silted.”

Anglian Water at FDC Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting

Briony Tuthill, a public engagement manager from Anglian Water, answered extensive questions from councillors on issues ranging from infrastructure concerns to delays in responding to significant leaks. - Credit: Zoom

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She added that much of the work in March is carried out by the county council, Fenland District Council and “the relevant flood risk authorities”.

Ms Tuthill also explained Cambridgeshire County Council is working “to pull together a bid to access resilience innovation funding” through Defra and the Environment Agency.

She said: “We’re very supportive of that bid and we hope March will be one of the focus areas.”

If successful, she said part of the funding will put in place “resilience measures” and residential areas will be made “more permeable” to prevent flooding.

Anglian Water van at Cavalry Drive, in March.

An Anglian Water van in Cavalry Drive, in March, one of the streets flooded on Christmas Eve 2020. - Credit: Ian Carter

But the efforts outlined were not enough on Christmas Eve for some Fenland residents.

Just a fortnight after the meeting, many of the homes hit in 2014 were underwater again.

Among the streets in March affected were Cavalry Drive, Morton Avenue and Norwood Road, which had to be closed due to the water levels. 

Christmas Eve flooding in Morton Avenue, March

Morton Avenue, in March, was also affected in the Christmas Eve 2020 floods. - Credit: Ian Carter

A Gaul Road resident has told this newspaper her home flooded when the pumping system in Ellingham Road tripped because the drainage system was overloaded.

Meanwhile, an elderly couple in Coates were left with no sanitary provision for five days over the festivities because another pumping station had failed.

Their councillor, Bob Wicks, said: “I, and others, have formally complained to the CEO of Anglian Water about the service because it is a disgrace.”

Homes in Doddington, Chatteris and Wisbech were also affected. The Environment Agency issued flood alerts across the Fens over the Christmas period.

Environment Agency issued flood alerts on Christmas Eve 2020.

Environment Agency issued flood alerts on Christmas Eve 2020. - Credit: Environment Agency

Yesterday (Monday), Cllr Yeulett said: “I've visited flooded homes before and it’s terrible for the homeowners.

“At one I went to, the owners were very brave and stoic about what had happened. But it’s awful for them.”

He added: “I heard that Anglian Water visited this week and discovered a set of lime tree roots on Upwell Road had grown into the sewer and that would’ve affected the Cavalry Drive area.

“I understand the roots of those same trees contributed to the 2014 floods as well. They’d grown back, as nature does, and blocked the sewer again.

"I would like to see Anglian Water regularly check areas that are known to be at risk when we get heavy rains.”

March floods readers pictures. Dagless Way. Picture: Scott Weeks.

Reader Scott Weeks took this photograph of Daglass Way in the 2014 floods - Credit: Scott Weeks

This week, Anglian Water didn’t comment on the causes of the flooding put to them, but instead said it works with all organisations that manage drainage.

A spokesperson said: “Our teams have been out throughout the Christmas period making sure our own network has operated as well as possible in the circumstances.

“We’re doing all we can to help, but the reality is it’s simply not possible to tanker away a burst river, which is the cause of some ongoing flooding problems.”

Flooding in Upwell Road, March

Flooding in Upwell Road, March. - Credit: Fred Yeulett

She added: “Drainage systems are complex and managed by a number of organisations including councils, private drainage companies, the Environment Agency and Anglian Water amongst others, and we work very closely with all of them.

“They’re not designed to carry water from rivers that have burst or spilled over, or the volume of floodwater we’ve seen following this week’s rain, which is what has caused the flooding we’ve seen.”

If you have concerns about flooding and would like to share your story then email