Tewkesbury nervously waiting for flooding

Residents in Tewkesbury are nervously waiting to see whether their homes will flood as Gloucestershire braces itself for the worst flooding since 2014.

There are almost a dozen flood warnings in place along stretches of the River Severn between Tewkesbury and Gloucester in the aftermath of Storm Dennis.

Some roads have been closed due to flooding and an emergency shelter has been set up at a leisure centre in Gloucester for residents living in high risk areas of the city.

A cyclist negotiates the flood water in Tewkesbury (Ben Birchall/PA).
A cyclist negotiates the flood water in Tewkesbury (Ben Birchall/PA).

In Tewkesbury, many residents remember the floods of 2007, 2012 and 2014 and are prepared for what could happen.

Retired headteacher John Badham, 71, has removable barriers protecting the front and rear of his home from the water which has flooded his street and garden.

He also has a pump removing water from his garden patio.

“The experience is closer to 2014 than 2007 where the water is coming down more slowly, rather than sudden,” he said.

“In some ways it is quite anxious.

“We have been waiting since Sunday with the water getting closer and coming in.

“There are millions of people in England with similar problems.

“We have to keep telling ourselves it’s only things.”

Mr Badham, a former mayor of Tewkesbury, has lived in the town since 2001 and the last time his house flooded was 2007.

He and his wife Marion, 69, also a retired teacher, have considered moving but have been unable to find a house they like in the local area.

John Badham checks the pumps in his back garden are working (Ben Birchall/PA).
John Badham checks the pumps in his back garden are working (Ben Birchall/PA).

They pay around £800 a year for insurance and for a few years after 2007 they could not get any at all.

“When we bought this house in 2001 the only time it flooded before was in 1947, so it seemed a good risk.

“It didn’t seem like a big risk but it obviously was,” Mr Badham said.

“The problem with Tewkesbury is there are five rivers coming into the same place.

“The only thing you can probably do is replace the bridge on Gloucester Road, which would be particularly expensive.

“The bridge acts as a barrier to water getting out to the Severn.

“There is a limit to what people can do.”

Mrs Badham said: “It hasn’t been as close as this for nearly 10 years.”

The couple have moved anything of value from the ground floor to upstairs in case the flood defences are unable to keep back the water.

Speaking from his kitchen, he said: “I have never lived anywhere quite like this – there is an extraordinary community.

“People coming together to help each other out.

“The police have been particularly outstanding.

“People are now talking about Storm Ellen and that is a bit worrying with the water coming down the Severn and flooding.

“I imagine the water levels will go up a bit and if we are saved we will have been very lucky.”

Residents of Gloucester Road in Tewkesbury collect sandbags to enforce their flood defences (Ben Birchall/PA).
Residents of Gloucester Road in Tewkesbury collect sandbags to enforce their flood defences (Ben Birchall/PA).

Mark Sitton-Kent, director of operations at the Environment Agency, warned river levels may continue to rise in the coming days with more rain on the way.

“It is very difficult to predict what the rain forecast over the next few days will do but I can reassure people that we are absolutely on our toes and doing everything we can,” he said.

“Nationally around 700 properties have flooded and that compares to something like 25,000 properties that have been protected by defences.”

Mr Sitton-Kent said incidents of flooding were becoming much more common and attributed this to climate change.

“I have been working in the water industry for 25 years and when I started floods like this were virtually unheard of and occurred once in a career,” he said.

“I’ve had more of these than I care to remember.

“They are becoming much more frequent and I think that can be a sign of the shift in the climate and the climate emergency.

“And I think we really do need to think long and hard about what we are doing and how we’re addressing the climate emergency.

“Sadly, I think it’s inevitable that we will see more of this and we need to prepare for it and our infrastructure needs to be better at coping.”

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