ELTHAM’s MP Clive Efford has hit out at the "failure" of the Environment Agency to protect residents before and after Eltham’s devastating floods.
It comes after around 23 homes in Westhorne Avenue were severely flooded in the early hours of Christmas Eve with some families now forced to move out for up to six months while repairs take place.
Clive Efford accused the Environment Agency and insurance companies of putting people’s health at risk by not offering advice after the floods which caused sewage to burst into houses.
He also dismissed its claim the flooding was due to Sutcliffe Park reservoir being full as a "complete fabrication" and says it was actually a blocked barricade which the Environment Agency is responsible for.
Clive Efford said: "I am pretty angry.
"I think we need to bang some heads together here – people should have been given advice because they could have put themselves at risk.
"This is not a failure of the flood alleviation scheme. This is a failure of the Environment Agency."
Residents, Greenwich Council and MP Clive Efford attended an emergency meeting at Badgers Sports Club, which was also flooded, on Thursday (January 2) where there was much criticism of the blocked grill.
Mr Efford said: "What happened is that the Environment Agency didn’t clear the grill regularly enough and it just dammed.
"The water was hitting this mass of debris and cascading through the allotment into people’s houses.
"The idea that this was caused by a back-up from Sutcliffe Park is a complete fabrication."
He says residents were forced to knock holes in their fences so the water could drain back into the river which would not have happened if the reservoir was full.
He added: "What really does concern me is that we have this very expensive multi-million pound flood alleviation scheme which should have prevented this flood and because of the failure of the Environment Agency to carry out its duties, these people have been flooded just for the sake of raking out some debris."
Leader of Greenwich Conservatives Spencer Drury echoed the need for answers over what could be a "man-made" mistake which would cause residents' insurance costs to rocket.
He said: “It is just dreadful, especially if it is man-made.
“Frankly the people really need this confirmation of whether this is man-made in order to avoid the insurance of their homes going up.”
Chairman of Quaggy Waterways Action Scheme Paul de Sylva says the community group has raised fears about the design of grills around Sutcliffe Park and blocked debris to the Environment Agency in the past.
He warned there were similar grills near Lee which could flood into central Lewisham if conditions were similar.
A spokeswoman for the Environment Agency said: “We are working closely with our professional partners to support the communities that have been affected by flooding in Eltham and elsewhere over the Christmas period.
“Sutcliffe Park Flood Storage reservoir is part of the River Quaggy Flood Alleviation Scheme, which worked successfully to protect over 600 properties. It was not designed to protect the properties on Westhorne Avenue.
“Our teams worked around the clock to inspect and clear all of our trash screens.
"The screen between Westhorne Avenue and Eltham Palace Road is a priority location for us and it was cleared regularly.
"When the Quaggy was inundated with storm water, following the exceptional rainfall, it overtopped the channel banks in the early hours of Christmas Eve.
"It was this overwhelming amount of storm water which lead to the flooding in Westbourne Avenue."
She went on to say they wished to hear from local people about what happened on 03708 506 506 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
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