Newport flooding: Environment Agency confirms River Cam burst its banks
The Environment Agency says that unprecedented flooding in Newport – which led to the B1383 north of the village being closed for several days and prompted a war of words between residents and councillors – was the result of the River Cam overflowing.
Angry villagers and commuters slammed highways authority Essex County Council following the December 4 downpour, believing blocked drains to be the reason behind the floorwater that submerged London Road towards Audley End and Saffron Walden and led to vehicles being abandoned in the water and surrounding country roads clogged up with traffic.
They accused the council of failing to maintain the drains and of putting out inaccurate information that the River Cam had burst its banks.
Newport's county councillor, Conservative Ray Gooding, who represents the Stansted division, defended ECC against the spread of "misinformation for spurious political gain" as the village's Residents for Uttlesford (R4U) district councillor Neil Hargreaves claimed "it was without a shadow of a doubt" blocked drains that caused the flooding.
But the Environment Agency confirmed this week that the River Cam had overflowed.
A spokesperson said: “We experienced significant rain and snowfall over the Thursday night and into Friday morning (Dec 3-4) – 30mm was recorded in 24 hours falling on already saturated ground.
"As a result, water levels on the River Cam responded, resulting in the flooding of nearby roads in Henham, Newport and Littlebury.
"When there is too much water in the river, the river floods outside of its normal course. This was not due to a failing of any Environment Agency structures.
"A flood warning was issued for the area on the Friday to notify people that flooding was expected."
The road has since reopened. It required a huge clean-up operation by Essex Highways to remove sludge and debris that had been washed onto the road and the drains were once again jetted to ensure water could flow freely.
The council is due to meet a landowner on site on Wednesday with a view to clearing out a ditch to prevent further flooding.
A spokesperson for Essex Highways said: "Our crew were working to clear recent silt from the road drains on Friday (Dec 11), with the road open under traffic management. The drains have been cleared as far as possible given the height of the surrounding water levels.
"We are meeting local landowners on site with a view to their offer to dig out the drainage ditch which is on private land. This should help keep water flowing away from the road, but nonetheless if the river is as high again as it was last weekend, there is nothing to stop water topping the road surface."