Alney Island, Sandhurst and Twigworth residents try to beat the floods
FLOOD relief of £50,000 has been pledged to help victims of the deluge in Gloucestershire as anxious residents watch water levels hit a high.
Yesterday the Environment Agency said they expected the levels to peak last night but more rain – and snow – is on the way.
Gloucestershire County Council has released up an extra £50,000 for immediate support to those in need.
It will be administered by Gloucestershire Community Foundation and will be given to those hit by the floods or face problems due to the winter. The foundation funds projects that help the disadvantaged throughout the county.
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"Much of what we've seen over the last few days could have been a lot worse had we not invested since 2007," said council leader Mark Hawthorne.
"Unfortunately around 50 properties in the county have flooded in the last few days, but the Environment Agency estimate this could have been 500 properties without the investment in flood alleviation."
Emergency relief grants of £250 will help those with the most immediate needs, and the foundation wants to hear from anyone else who may have been affected. Details on how to apply will be released soon.
As the River Severn discharged water through villages, fears over finances also grew. Homeowners could face a future crisis if the Government cannot hammer out an agreement on affordable flood insurance.
The Environment Agency's flood warning for the River Severn remains in place, one level below severe.
Spending £27,000 on flood defences appears to be paying off for one family in Sandhurst.
As the water from the burst banks of the Severn surged down the lane towards their property, Tina Hailes and husband Graham watched it wash around but crucially, not through their family's home.
"It was horrendous being flooded," said Graham of the 2007 floods. "This is mum and dad's house and we said never again."
A 4ft-high water repelling barrier was rendered on to the outside walls of the house, and it extends 1ft underground. Three pumps inside the barrier shift water back out over the outer wall, while hefty stainless steel doors complete the watertight seal.
"We didn't want it to happen again, and insurance would have been much harder to get, so we spent the money," said Mrs Hailes.
Yesterday afternoon, floodwater appeared to rise, as a strong current under the A40 Northern Bypass.
"When the bypass was built in the 70s, they made a mistake," said Sandhurst Lane resident Bob Newby, who with son Evan floated parcels in plastic boxes to their waiting car for a trip to the post office. "The only place for water to get through at this end is Sandhurst Lane. There are no culverts – it would have cost a relatively small amount then but the work would cost a lot more now."
Retired coal merchant John Orpin turned back because he feared he'd be swept off his feet in 4ft of water.
"I went in but I was on my own, and could feel it taking me away, so I came back," said Mr Orpin, who was trying to reach his horses on 20 acres of land his father raised after the 1947 floods.
The Environment Agency is pumping out water from Alney Island, where residents have been watching river levels rise to within inches of their doors.
Anxious residents have their fingers crossed that the River Severn's waters will stop just short of their homes.
The Environment Agency has set up three pumps to take water out of the river and away from Alney Terrace.
Lawrence Whayman, of Alney Terrace, said: "The pumps appear to be working. We are just holding."
Fernando Serra has shifted his furniture out of harm's way in his Alney Terrace home.
"We understand more water is coming down the river," he said.
"My insurance has only gone up by a relatively small amount but in the longer term the situation is worrying."
Meanwhile, enterprising Val and Derek Lown beat the floodwaters with their own dam which cost £1,000.
They covered their Twigworth house in plastic to stop the water. Val, 54, said: "It is a sense of relief, when it all started off I was devastated. We didn't know if it would work, it was going to be trial and error. It was not really until we made it through the night with the water out that we realised it had worked."