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Long Melford councillor urges action to clear river debris following recent flooding problems

A spotlight has been shone on recurring flooding hotspots in a Suffolk village, following a succession of recent storms.

Long Melford councillor Richard Kemp has called for answers from the Environment Agency over a reported decline in maintenance to remove debris from the River Stour and River Chadbrook.

Cllr Kemp pinpointed Borley Road, Bridge Street, Hall Mill and the Liston crossing as areas of the village that were particularly affected by water overflows from the two rivers.

Photos show the overflowing River Stour between Sudbury and Long Melford. Picture: Andy Rushworth
Photos show the overflowing River Stour between Sudbury and Long Melford. Picture: Andy Rushworth

The issue reared its head during Storm Babet in October, when heavy rainfall caused the Chad Brook tributary of the River Stour to burst its banks.

This required several homes to be evacuated, with people housed in an emergency rest centre set up in St Catherine’s Church.

With further stormy weather since then, Cllr Kemp urged clarity from the authorities on how this problem was being addressed.

He told SuffolkNews that all watercourses were cleaned annually by river board authorities more than a decade ago, and he believed these duties had been transferred to the Environment Agency.

“Going back some 15 years, we had the Essex River Board, which every year cleaned out the river beds in question,” said Mr Kemp, who represents Long Melford on Suffolk County Council.

“What has changed so mean does not happen now – is it new laws, or simply a case of saving money?

“For instance, the silt and debris on the Chadbrook riverbed at Bridge Street, which has been calculated and measured, has an increased build-up of approximately 1.5 metres from the period of cleaning 15 years ago.

“It does not need a great brain to realise that there is a much greater risk of the river overflowing than 15 years ago.”

In response, a spokesman for the Environment Agency said: “While we do have powers to oversee main river watercourses, the responsibility for maintaining a watercourse usually lies with the riparian owner – as is the case in Long Melford.

“These responsibilities include maintaining the bed and banks of the watercourse and keeping the banks clear of anything that could cause an obstruction and increase flood risk.

“We undertake less dredging today than in the past, in alignment with evolving insights of the flood risk benefits and how rivers and catchments function, though it is considered as part of our broader maintenance programme in targeted locations.

“We welcome any intelligence that people can provide on locations of channel blockages.”