MP calls for flood probe as council denies responsibility

Rob Young

Greg Clark has called for an ‘urgent’ enquiry into the causes of last week’s flooding as individuals and businesses across the town continue to count the cost of the damage.

With estimates suggesting the final bill for the clean-up could exceed £500,000, the MP has asked Kent County Council and Southern Water to investigate the reasons behind the failure of the town’s drainage system.

Mr Clark said: “Residents and businesses affected by the recent flooding in our town are facing significant clean-up costs.

“Therefore I have asked KCC Highways, in conjunction with Southern Water, to undertake an urgent survey of the drains to establish whether they were functioning properly.

“We need to quickly identify what caused the flooding so that any necessary improvements to the drainage system can be made to prevent this situation occurring again.”

KCC denied suggestions recent road resurfacing contributed to the severe flooding near The Panties which resulted in one shop, Any Occasion Boutique, losing £60,000 in stock.

While a spokesman for KCC confirmed that both Frant Road and London Road had been resurfaced, he denied highways inspectors had discovered tarmac from the projects in the drains.


He said: “When carrying out resurfacing, every effort is made to avoid debris ending up in the drains and they are routinely covered with plastic sheeting to protect them.

“We were in Tunbridge Wells all day on Tuesday working alongside Kent Fire & Rescue Service to clean and check the drainage system.

“Initial investigations indicate the very intense rainfall overwhelmed the drainage system. The gullies were cleansed and tested, and found to be free from any defects.

“The blocked drains on Nevill Street were reported to us by KFRS on Tuesday and a crew cleared them.”

KCC said ‘various bits of detritus’ washed into the system were responsible for the blockages.

But one trader felt the situation should never have arisen.

Dave Nicklin, who owns jewellery store Glitterati, said: “We have had the shop for 21 years so have seen a few rainy days.

“I have recently heard all sorts of talk about who is to blame, it’s not the builders at the Brew House, they have been meticulous with their working practices, and it’s not the tarmac-layers.

“What I have learned is that KCC do not clean out the mains drains. In fact, their staff have difficulty in finding The Pantiles.

“Every year when the leaves start to change colour I spend many hours nagging KCC to send over a sludge pump to clear the drains.

“KCC never tell me whether the drains have been cleared, often they will try to evade the task by saying they have sent over an engineer to assess the condition. Which is pointless.

In response, the KCC said: “We clean drains on main roads once every 12 months with all other drains cleaned on a targeted basis.

“Maintenance is prioritised on the basis of the risk to the safety of road users and the risk of internal property flooding.

“Prior to this week we had not received any reports of blocked drains in Nevill Street since October 2014.

“Should residents be concerned about flooding on the highway or flooding as a result of water from the highway, they can report it to us.”

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