'We are in 2024, not in a Victorian slum' - Residents call for action as sewage overflows

  • ITV News Meridian's Nicki Woodcock spoke to residents affected in Newbury

A group of residents in Newbury say they feel "neglected" by the authorities as flood water and sewage regularly plagues their properties.

Recent storms and heavy rainfall has highlighted the need for action as many say they are on edge all year round.

Resident Jo Berridge said: "We've lived here just over 20 years. It was always an issue when there was a slight increase in rain.

"Back in 2014, we obviously had similar weather to what we've just had and that became a major issue and since then year on year it's an issue.

  • Resident Jo Berridge says it's like living in a "Victorian slum"

"It's stressful all the time having to try and deal with this. We have grandchildren. How can I invite them around knowing there’s raw sewage?

"We are in 2024, we are not in a Victorian slum, and that's how it feels."Sewage drains began overflowing when the River Lambourn burst its banks. It left roads submerged, gardens unusable and some residents were stranded in their homes.

The Environment Agency says it's continuing to support communities recovering from flooding and has protected almost 11,300 homes in the Thames Valley and Surrey during Storm Henk through the use of defences, pumps and river maintenance.

  • Resident Paula Saunderson says action is needed

Resident Paula Saunderson said: "It has taken another flood event to get focus. We've got a very complex situation here with lots of ground water, surface water, sewage problems, but also we get dumps from the river.

"They need to come up with a plan to do the proper research and come up with some actions resulting from that research."West Berkshire Council says it understands residents' frustrations and has committed to doing everything it can to improve the situation, working with partner agencies to do so.

In a statement Councillor Stuart Gourley, Executive Portfolio Holder: Climate Action, Recycling and Biodiversity, said: "I have already requested a meeting with the Environment Agency for the urban stretches of the River Lambourn before Christmas and we are waiting for a firm date.

"I have also requested a meeting with Thames Water once they are out of response mode to look at the long term solution, timelines and commitment they will make, and stick to. 

"Thames Water have committed to present back to the council by the end of March the plan to upgrade both the Lower Way Sewerage Treatment Plant and the London Road pumping station – both of which will be a contributing factor to the challenges residents are currently facing.

"This has been an issue for over 10 years, and I understand why residents are so frustrated.

"Since 2014, residents have had the opportunity to bid for up to £5k from the Government’s Repair and Renew Grant.

"It is important to use this as people are responsible for ensuring that their properties are as well protected as possible."

In a statement Thames Water said: "When the water levels recede, our teams will be carrying out infiltration investigations across the network, to better understand the nature of flooding to our systems in this area.

"This will also include thorough inspections of the sewers to identify any obstructions or maintenance requirements."We are sorry to residents for any distress the flooding may have caused and would like to assure them clean ups of the affected areas are being arranged over the coming days as water levels recede."

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Experts say we need to be better prepared as climate change is set to bring more extreme weather, more often.

Professor Hannah Cloke, Hydrologist, University of Reading, said: "We need to get better at telling people floods are coming.

"We have the technology, we have good flood warning systems, but sometimes they're not getting to people in time.

"We need much better drainage infrastructure and we need to stop building on flood plains."