Anger over Derbyshire flood warning ‘miscommunication’

An MOT centre in a Derbyshire town has been left under floodwater after a series of storms brought heavy rainfall, with allegations about miscommunicated flood warnings.

By Eddie Bisknell, Local Democracy Reporter
Monday, 21st February 2022, 3:00 pm
Updated Monday, 21st February 2022, 3:24 pm

Widespread flooding has hit Matlock town centre today in what residents, business owners and councillors now greet with a sigh, rather than shock.

It has become commonplace for the town, particularly along several stretches of Bakewell Road, to find themselves underwater after heavy rain.

This time around, parts of Matlock are under three feet of flood water, which locals believe is caused by a perilous combination of rainfall running off the hills into the town and surging river levels.

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The impact of flooding at Matlock MOT in Bakewell Road, after heavy rainfall

Cllr David Hughes, who represents Matlock on Derbyshire Dales District Council, says this bout of flooding is more to do with run-off than the levels of the River Derwent and Bentley Brook.

He claims the Environment Agency had not compensated for or “got their heads around” the issue, despite “excellent” work in November 2019, when record rainfall fell on the town causing significant disruption.

Cllr Hughes told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “My wife Jo Linthwaite and I visited all the businesses on Dale Road, Causeway Lane and Bakewell Road on Saturday morning to warn them of the possibility of flooding on Sunday night.

Cllr David Hughes with Matlock Town Council staff Dave Hall and Linden Weaver on Bakewell Road in Matlock

“Our warning was based on Derwent river level forecasts from Government, which like in 2019 proved to be accurate to a few centimetres.

“We were therefore horrified to hear that Environment Agency staff had been advising businesses on Sunday that they would be OK.

“The result was that some businesses didn’t take adequate precautions.

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The floodwater outside Matlock MOT in Bakewell Road

“What the EA forgot was that Matlock suffers a severe surface water run off problem when the Derwent is in flood and this runoff is in my opinion the principal cause of flooding on Bakewell Road last night.

“Late last night we could see the water bubbling up from the drains in the bus station next to M&S with three feet or more of water in the loading bay.

“This is the third time in just over two years that Bakewell Road has been flooded. Local businesses are distraught and angry.

“Action is needed to reduce run off and to increase the capacity of sewers to cope.”

Cllr Hughes claimed developers building around Matlock need to pay money towards infrastructure and more of a priority must be placed on providing this if more housing and businesses are to be built.

The cost of development must not see commitments to improve this vital infrastructure dropped, he said.

Cllr Hughes claims the EA had told businesses that the River Derwent would peak at between 3.1 metres and 4.1 metres, but the river ended up peaking at 4.58 metres – with 5.18 metres being the all-time peak, dating back to 1965.

He said farmers were able to move their livestock further uphill but there were some “very upset shopkeepers”.

Cllr Hughes also said flood barriers in Knowleston Place in the town “failed” and could not be closed.

He said the EA was pumping water out of the Bentley Brook and into the River Derwent, but that the water was surging back out again due to the failed flood defences.

Cllr Hughes says flooding in that particular area is not catastrophic but that residents claim it is the worst it has ever been.

He said the M&S Foodhall in Bakewell Road has had to close and could not make its deliveries due to floodwater.

Photos and videos shared on social media show widespread flooding on Bakewell Road, affecting Stanley Fearn Cycles, The Tipsy Toad, The Matlock Cafe, Boyes Department Store, Mad Hatter, Holland & Barrett and more.

One such business, Matlock MOT, in Bakewell Road, has been hit by seven inches of floodwater and deployed a large number of sandbags to keep the issue at bay.

Stewart Baker, who has run the business for 20 years, says he would have made up to £3,000 today if not for the flooding but hopes most of the postponed bookings will come back, rather than head somewhere else.

He claims he was told by EA staff at 10pm last night that the River Derwent had peaked.

At that time, the river was at 4.13 metres.

However, the river continued to rise, peaking at 4.58 metres at 4.15am this morning – nearly half a metre higher.

He told the LDRS: “It is just terrible. It had just started to go down again too but it has started raining again.

“It happens every year now, there is just nowhere for the water to go when the drains are all blocked up.

“It comes down from the hill and down through the river and it can’t go anywhere.

“It is a massive problem and they (the Government) have got to do something about it. It is very difficult for everybody, everyone is complaining.

“But what is the answer? They need to spend a lot of money cleaning out the river and the drains.

“It is going to keep happening a lot now. We had around two foot (24 inches) of water in the garage in November 2021, and I mark where it comes in, we have had around seven inches this time.”

A staff member at Mad Hatter, a tea room in Bakewell Road, said the business was closed due to the flooding and claimed they had been told by the EA and council that there was a risk of flooding.

They said the risk would carry over the weekend and that staff came by the business over the weekend with sandbags to prepare ahead of the flooding.

A spokesperson for the Environment Agency said the allegations over miscommunication would be investigated.

They also said the EA was not aware of any properties in Matlock flooding due to river water and that some had been impacted by surface water and water coming up through cellars.

EA staff are inspecing “assets” in the town and the issue of forecasting rainfall is “very difficult to predict”, the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said: “We are very concerned to witness the situation which occurred overnight in Matlock this Sunday/Monday.

“We fully appreciate that flooding is devastating for all those involved and the issue will be fully investigated in a review of our incident operations.

“However, our priority at present is to focus staff and resources on the on-going flood issues across the East Midlands to protect lives and homes.

“We are urging extra vigilance over the coming days due to the risk of flooding in the region.”

The agency still has a flood warning on the River Derwent at Matlock Bath.

It reads: “River levels have risen but are steady at the Matlock river gauge as a result of heavy rainfall.

“Areas most at risk are Matlock Bath, including the Midland Hotel.

“Further light rainfall is forecast over the next 24 hours. We expect river levels to remain high until 22/02/22. We are closely monitoring the situation.

“Our incident response staff are liaising with emergency services. Avoid contact with flood water and plan driving routes to avoid low-lying roads near rivers, which may be flooded.”