Concerns follow severe flooding in Combe Valley

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Flooding is recurring problem in the Combe Valley over the winter months - but a member of the local nature group claims it is getting worse.

David Dennis, of the Friends of Combe Valley, told the Observer: “The valley was formed thousands of years ago when a much larger river cut through the underlying mudstones and silts left by successive geological ages.

“The current river Combe Haven has a vital role in draining farmland and safely conducting huge amounts of water to the sea – or at least it did until we started building on its flood plain.

“Having lived in this area almost all my life I can remember Bexhill Road being flooded in many winters.

“People’s back gardens were submerged, their homes were flooded and 2014 Bexhill Recreation Ground became a vast lake.

“Why is it that this water cannot escape to the sea at natural pace anymore?

“In recent times we seem to be experiencing a monsoon-style period of autumn and early winter rain.

“The climate is warming, more water can be held by the atmosphere and this is often dumped in torrential downpours in our local area. It is happening across the south of England and elsewhere.”

For the four months October to January each year, the average rainfall in the valley is 15 inches (384mm).

David said: “Visualise 15 inches of water piled up on each inch of three square miles.

“Give the Haven river credit then for moving billions of tons of water in four months through a disproportionately narrow gap into the sea.

“The effect of unwise local authority planning decisions in pandering to commercial interests against common sense and scientific advice over many years can now be seen.

“If you permit building on a flood plain you are asking for trouble.”

David said that the number of houses in the river outflow area is also adding to the problem.

Since 1813 the banks of the river have been lined with more and more housing, dramatically reducing the river’s ability to spread out during times of high rainfall and it is now forced through a sluice by the Filsham Road railway bridge.

This year the Environment Agency dredged the river near the Combe Haven Caravan Park and cut the reeds, but this can’t happen every year due to cost and the effect on wildlife which has made its home in the park.

At the park the numbers of rare bitterns, kingfishers and cormorants are on the up, there are dragonflies abound, water rails, mallards, tufted ducks, geese and swans, gulls and fish all live happily in the flood.