On the 2nd January 2024 the Barkby brook bust its banks for the second time in three months and caused major devastation to properties close to its boundary.
Some businesses and properties in the centre along Brookside were flooded to the second time in three months, other streets which either haven’t seen flooding since 1992/3 or had never been flooded before were all shocked by the amount of homes affected from Plumtree Way, through College Road, Merton Ave, Trinity Close, University close, Brookfield Avenue and Brookfield Street, Melton Road, Brookside, Chapel Street, North street, West Street right down to parts of the Hobby Horse estate and Meadow Lane.
Some of the causes of this will be the unprecedented rainfall in such a short period of time on top of the large amount of rainfall in the last three months July to December being the highest rainfall recorded ever.
But also the lack of routine maintenance of the Brook, as there is a lot of vegetation in the Brook that shouldn’t be there according to the Barkby Flood Alleviation plan 2004. The responsibility for keeping the banks and bed of brook falls to the riparian owners, these are as the Environment Agency told one of our readers who contacted them: Maintenance of a watercourse is the responsibility of its riparian owner. The riparian owner is the owner of the land next to the watercourse. They are responsible for maintenance of the watercourse up to half way across and the owner of the opposite bank is responsible for the other half. If the land on both sides of the watercourse has the same owner, they are responsible for its entire width. However, in order to do any maintenance the riparian owner has to get permission from the county council before doing anything.
This was unfortunately denied at the meeting held on the 9th January. The Town Council and the Borough Council are riparian landowners of parks and the main car park in Syston. The County Council are also riparian owners where public footpaths are adjacent to the brook.
The community came together to help each other – through an appeal on the Syston Town News Facebook page we helped connect people affected by flooding to people who were willing to lend a dehumidifier to help dry their homes. We would like to thank all those people who helped by this small but welcomed gesture.
There is an urgent need to clear vegetation from in the Brook not just along the Brookside but all the way through to were the brook meets the River Wreake which is at the Three Ways Bridge, see our pictured below.
Your editor and some residents walked the brook from the bridge on the Fosseway down Meadow Lane to the boat yard and along the tow path to the locks beyond the weir, where we found the flood/sluice gates that was denied exited at the meeting on the 9th January. In actual fact there are gates at Thurmaston, this one in Syston, Cossington and Sileby. What we couldn’t see was whether or not they are operational. See our picture below the amount of rubbish and trees etc clogging the wire and sitting above the sluice gates in the canal is disgusting!
There is even a pile of rubbish that was removedfrom the weir and around the sluice gates last year, just dump on the bank! The amount of rubbish/fly tipping that has got into the watercourse is also disgusting and the lack of maintenance just compounds the problem, the water gets backed up because of the obstructions. This is also a probable contribution to why this flood was worse than the one in October.
We have been in touch with Leicestershire County Council as they are our Lead Local Flood Authority and they have told us that the Barkby Brook has been designated a river and to contact the Environment Agency as they are responsible for rivers. We spoke with the Environment Agency and they explained that it is only a designated river from Deville Park to the A46 where it meets the River Wreake, and they are responsible for the flood alleviation but not general maintenance, that remains with the Riparian owners of the land adjacent to the Barkby Brook.
After the last flood in October, a panel was set up but only one meeting has gone ahead and as far as the public is aware nothing has been done, resulting in the town being hit by an even worse flood that the last one.
However, Charnwood Borough Council responded more rapidly after the flood this time and sent out a road cleaners to clear the silt and rubbish left behind on the roads affected, then they collected flood damaged items from households affected too.
In order for flooding in Syston to be avoided in the future, the community and local authorities need to work together.
Some members of the community have suggested organising an action group supported by councils and environment agencies because we are all aware that councils have a limited amount of people and funds.
If action isn’t done soon with the removal of vegetation from the brook that is blocking and slowing the water down then the town is likely to be flooded again. This was stated in the Flood Alleviation plan 2004, which the environment agency are aware of and agreed that regular general maintenance along the brook should be done by the Riparian owners. It is over ten years since any maintenance has been done along the Barkby Brook.
There is a need for all the willows in the Brook to be removed which would need specialist equipment and large diggers to remove the silt in places, particularly, were land has slipped into the brook and near the A46 as one side of the Barkby Brook is completed silted up preventing water being able to flow.
However, volunteers could help clear smaller blockages like the fallen branches from overhanging trees and shrubs, removing bull rushes that again are blocking the flow of water.
If Syston Town Council helped by communicating with the Charnwood Borough Council and Leicestershire County Council departments responsible for the culverts and drains which currently are only cleared twice a year in March and September – this is insufficient as between September and March is when deciduous trees shed their leaves and block drains thus contributing to flooding.
There is an early warning system in the Brookside and in October residents were told that it failed and it obviously failed again – has this been followed up as the Environment Agency have told us that they are responsible for this and also the sluice/flood gates located where the River Wreake leaves the Grand Union Canal just past the Three Ways Bridge. We have reported this to the East Midlands Office and asked for a response on the status of the early warning system and at going to print we haven’t had a reply.
Below are some photographs from around Syston some are our photos others have been sent by residents we thank them for their contributions.