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Flooding closes main B1383 road between Newport and Saffron Walden as River Cam bursts its banks

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Severe flooding has closed the main road through Newport after the River Cam burst its banks during Friday morning's (Dec 3) heavy rain.

The B1383 north of the village to Audley End and Saffron Walden is still under water. It is expected to remain shut for the next few days or until water levels subside.

Essex Highways inspectors, who have been monitoring the situation all weekend, are on site. On Monday afternoon (Dec 7) they reported that despite some blockage from leaves and debris, drains are flowing properly, but the sheer amount of water coming from the River Cam is unstoppable.

The section of the B1383 between Newport and Saffron Walden on Monday after the River Cam burst its banks on Friday (43436435)
The section of the B1383 between Newport and Saffron Walden on Monday after the River Cam burst its banks on Friday (43436435)

Torrential downpours on Thursday evening and into Friday were followed by a covering of snow first thing in the morning which quickly melted, bringing mud and silt from the fields onto the roads.

Several drivers who tried to negotiate the flooded B1383 had to abandon their vehicles while queues of traffic quickly formed on surrounding smaller country roads as motorists tried to bypass the blocked road. Many were thwarted getting to work on time – Rickling CofE Primary in Ricking Green, near Quendon, did not open until 10am as staff were stuck en route.

Debden Road is being used as a diversion route by many motorists, but Sarah Dickson, who contacted the Indie with her concerns, said that this was "unsuitable for the amount of traffic currently using it".

She added: "The highways agency, Essex CC are all blaming each other and Google currently has it closed until 12th Dec. Cars are sitting abandoned and if the M11 is closed there is no through way for traffic."

Cllr Ray Gooding, whose Essex County Council Stansted division includes Newport, said that he was passing on regular updates from Essex Highways to his constituents and warned motorists not to ignore the road closure signs after reports of bollards being moved out of the way in order for drivers to "chance their arm" and drive through the floodwater.

"The River Cam has burst its banks, which is causing the flood. Most of the drains seem to be running properly – that was the latest information I've had from inspectors on the site, but it's the river water that just keeps on coming," he said.

"I've had reports that people are constantly removing the bollards and then driving through and getting stuck and having to abandon their broken-down vehicles."

He added: "I understand that people are looking for someone to blame and I'm trying to get as much information as possible. But Friday morning was one of the worst storms in Essex for a very long time, with snow first then some very heavy rain.

"Chelmsford was almost completely flooded, Halstead got hit very badly, so this wasn't unique to Newport. It was a huge body of water coming off the fields as the snow melted, with mud and silt washed off the land."

An Essex Highways spokesperson said on Monday (Dec 7): “Recent heavy rain, sleet and snow has caused rivers across much of the region to burst their banks and flood surrounding roads and fields, and this is what the River Cam has done in Newport.

"On Thursday 3 December, the Essex Highways duty officer noted the River Cam burst its banks and Essex Police closed the road.

"On Friday river levels continued to rise throughout the day, especially in the afternoon, further flooding the road. An Essex Highways crew replaced police closure signs as drivers had removed them and driven through.

"On Saturday, the river levels began to reduce slowly, our crew rechecked the site, but no action was possible as the river water was too high and they reported drivers had again moved closure signs."

The spokesperson continued: "On Sunday, river levels across Essex were generally lower, however the Cam was still high. Our crew again replaced signs and barriers after drivers had moved them.

"Today our drainage crew attended the road. The river has left a lot of new silt on the road and the crew attempted drain clearing where the river water was low enough.

"The road will be clear and driveable once the river water declines to a level where the road has somewhere to drain.

"Drivers must not remove police closure signs and barriers – this is irresponsible and dangerous. We urge drivers not to attempt to drive through floodwater.”

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