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Anger that Tunbridge Wells drains could not cope with rain

by William Mata

Anger that Tunbridge Wells drains could not cope with rain

Businesses are angry that just a few minutes of heavy rainfall caused thousands of pounds worth of damage in Tunbridge Wells.

Shop, restaurant and hotel owners told the Times that drainage could not cope at the southern end of town as rain fell yesterday afternoon around 4pm [Thursday, July 5].

The Pantiles, Warwick Park, Mount Pleasant and Castle Street were particularly badly hit.

For some, it was the second flooding incident in the past 12 months and managers have called on Kent County Council, who look after highways and drainage, as well as Southern Water, who manage sewage systems, to prevent this from happening again.

Grace Edwards of Castle Street shop Chapter 2 does her best to clear the water.

World Cup hope

Heavy rains also caused Tunbridge Wells to flood in July last year. In a meeting afterwards a Southern Water official called this a ‘once in 50 year event’.

John Hoare, Co-Manager of Cassidy’s Sports Bar in Castle Street, said this is the third time in three years the pub has been damaged by flood water.

Both previous times it cost the business in the region of £30,000 to make repairs. The pub faces a race against time to reopen in time for England’s World Cup match tomorrow [Saturday, July 7].

He said: “The cellar is badly flooded and the pub is flooded, it is not good enough. This is our third flood in three years.

“We have already lost £5,000 to £6,000 worth of stock. We are currently closed [and losing business] and should be open in time for the game, but it is very demoralising.”

The aftermath in Warwick Park

“There was three inches of black water.”

Alexia Taylor, of Walsh Bros. in Mount Pleasant, said the ‘three inches of black water’ caused damage to the jewellers’ new basement.

“Local politicians have said that such flooding happens once in 50 years, but it has happened twice in a year and should be taken more seriously,” she said.

Neighbouring restaurant Kai’s Kitchen, which has previously had to close because of flooding, was affected but is trading as usual today [Friday, July 6].

Cllr Tracy Moore, Tunbridge Wells Borough Council member, said: “When will you improve the surface water, drains and infrastructure Southern Water and Kent County Council?

“That ‘once in 50 year event’ is happening far more frequently in Tunbridge Wells.”

Fellow borough councillor Peter Lidstone added: “Sadly this doesn’t come as a surprise.

“No one is willing to take ownership of the drainage problems, so businesses and residents are suffering again.”

This video was taken at around 3pm outside the Grub & Liquor. 

The response

A Kent County Council spokesman told the Times: “Over the course of the afternoon, parts of the county experienced extreme rainfall in a couple of hours and sections of the highway drainage system, which are not designed to accommodate downpours of such intensity, were overwhelmed. 

“Drains are routinely cleaned on Nevill Street and Warwick Park twice a year and our strategic network is attended yearly.

“A detailed design for this area has now been completed to discharge water in the area directly to the River Grom that flows beneath the Pantiles, instead of to the combined sewer.

“We aim to complete this work by the end of summer. This has been designed to greatly reduce the risk of flooding, though it is something we cannot eliminate entirely.”

Greg Clark was unavailable for comment, but after similar events last July the Tunbridge Wells MP held a meeting with businesses and said he would form a ‘working party’ to oversee a response.

Southern Water has also been approached for comment.

To report a blocked drain, call Kent Highways on 03000 418181.

Read more on this story in The Times of Tunbridge Wells on July 11.