Severe storms will be ‘new normal’ says Thames Water as Redbridge Council calls for improvements to drains

Redbridge Council has called on Thames Water to urgently improve its drains following recent flash floods.

At a cabinet meeting on September 14, council leader Jas Athwal said it was “tragic” to see Redbridge residents “standing waist high in water” after a months’ worth of rain fell in a few hours on July 12 and 25.

The floods caused a power cut at the nearby Whipps Cross Hospital, which was forced to send ambulances elsewhere, and submerged parts of the North Circular.

Cllr Athwal insisted the council-owned gullies worked but that “Thames Water’s systems were simply not able to cope”, warning that residents will “really suffer” unless something is done.

A Thames Water spokesperson, however, said their initial investigations had “not found any evidence of a failure on our network” and that the floods were a “harsh reminder of the devastating impact that climate change can and will have in the future”.

They said: “We sympathise with everyone affected by the flooding and have had a dedicated team supporting our customers, including carrying out clean-ups inside and outside of homes.

“The intensity and volume of rainfall tested our and other risk management authorities’ drainage assets beyond the limits they were designed to cope with.

“Severe storms look set to become the new normal across the UK, and ensuring our network can operate sufficiently to prevent or mitigate flash flooding needs to now become the collective new focus for all organisations involved in the UK’s water network and drainage systems.

“We want to fully understand what lessons we can learn and an independent investigation will take place over the coming months.”

The council is also investigating the causes of the floods and what can be done to prevent them in future..

A draft report prepared for cabinet explored the possibility of a new drainage system that would use features like rain gardens and water butts to slow the flow of water into the drains.

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Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter