Angry residents need to know whether blocked drains turned Northampton into a river at the weekend
The people of Far Cotton, St James and Briar Hill whose homes were devastated by flooding over the bank holiday need answers as to how so much standing water could collect in such a short space of time.
That is according to Green Party activist and former Northampton South MP Tony Clarke who believes, along with many others, that blocked drains maintained by Northamptonshire County Council were a major contributing factor to the floods.
Estimates are that a month's worth of rain fell in a single evening on Sunday, causing surface water to collect.
But a number of people have sent pictures into the Chronicle & Echo showing drains completely blocked with mud and litter after the event.
The Environment Agency has now confirmed the rising waters were not connected to River Nene rising and Anglian Water says its sewer network was "working correctly".
"This was not a burst river or the flood defences being overwhelmed," said Mr Clarke, who was MP when the Easter Floods hit the same part of Northampton in 1998.
"It's really down to flash floods not being able to get the water through quick enough through the drainage gullies."
The county council carried out a programme of gully clearance once a year and will send out contractors to reports of extreme blockages.
However, a blocked drain reported on the council's Street Doctor site on April 30 resulted in no action being taken.
St Leonard's Road homeowner Richard Short says he will be seeking compensation form the council after the ground floor of his home was gutted.
Speaking to a reporter on Monday as contractors unblocked a drain outside his house, he said: "I’ve been engaging with the council for two years.
"Of course, they’ve had the trucks out today (cleaning the drains). The amount of silt and muck that came out the drains was enormous. It hasn’t been done in two years.
"We have been neglected. I will expect compensation over the drains."
Northamptonshire County Council has launched an investigation to find out just how clogged the drains were prior to the catastrophic rain on Sunday night.
It is understood the rubbish left out by residents for bin day on Sunday could have also collected in the drain grates as the water levels rose, adding to the problems.
Some 70 homes and businesses are believed to have been affected.
A spokesman for the council, said: "This was a very unusual weather event where a significant amount of intense rainfall fell in concentrated areas of Northampton leading to surface water flooding.
“The county council as lead local flood authority for the county will co-ordinate an independent investigation to better understand what factors contributed to the flooding.”
Anglian Water, which maintains the sewer system in Northampton, said the "sheer volume of water" was the cause of the flooding.
A company spokeswoman said: “We’re working closely with all authorities who have responsibility for drainage, including the lead local flood authority, Northampton County Council, who is responsible for the road drains in the town, along with the local Highways Team.
"In cases like this, standing water can quickly build up on hard surfaces when it rains heavily because there’s nowhere for it to go. It’s a bit like a bath plughole and it takes time for the water to drain away.
“We’ve had additional people on the ground to ensure our sewer network is running as it should and to help and advise customers. All our checks have shown everything was working correctly and helped to take the surface water away as quickly as possible. “
The Environment Agency, which took the brunt of the criticism when Northampton was devastated by floods in 1998, said the circumstances over the weekend were very different to the "river flood" of 20 years ago.
Flood risk manager for the Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire area, Ben Thornely, said: "Our thoughts are with those who have been affected by the flooding; we recognise the devastating effect flooding has on people and communities, and we’re working closely with Northampton Borough Council, Northamptonshire County Council and other emergency partners to understand the extent of the flooding and help them respond to, and recover from, this flooding.
“As this was a surface water flooding – not river flooding - the levels in the rivers remain low and are capable of taking any further rainfall.
“We’ve had teams out throughout the night making sure rivers in and around Northampton are clear, and we’re continuing to clear channels and check defences today.
If you need further advice, or have not reported the flooding in your home yet, visit Northamptonshire County Council’s ‘Flood Toolkit’ website.
If you have been flooded, contact your insurance company and follow their advice.
If you haven’t got insurance the National Flood Forum can offer help and support.
The forum can be reached on 01299 403055 or www.nationalfloodforum.org.uk.