'What has been done?' Frustration at lack of action as Shrewsbury flood clean-up begins

River Severn flooding has returned to Shropshire just 11 months after the last serious deluge. Here we focus on Shrewsbury, where the clean-up is already in full swing.

Council workers clear up the mess caused by the flooding in Coleham, Shrewsbury
Council workers clear up the mess caused by the flooding in Coleham, Shrewsbury

As the spirit-crushing clean-up from this week's flooding begins, residents and business owners have been asking why so little has changed since the devastating floods of 11 months ago.

While large parts of Ironbridge and Bridgnorth remained under water on Saturday, Coleham in Shrewsbury was able to start the process of cleaning up after Thursday night's deluge.

For many in Shropshire, it is the third time water from the river has flooded their properties in just 11 months.

The main road through Coleham was still covered in sludge on Saturday but the water level had receded, allowing those hit to get to work on the miserable task of mopping out, disinfecting, and assessing the damage.

That is not to say all those affected could simply mop out and move on.

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Mark Davies from Darwin's Townhouse in some of the remaining floodwater at the bed and breakfast

For some, like Mark Davies, who owns the Darwin's Townhouse boutique bed & breakfast at St Julian's Friars, the flooding has left two basement bedrooms under four feet of water.

Similar scenes are unfolding throughout the length of the River Severn, which peaked at Ironbridge, Bridgnorth and Bewdley on Sunday as the main swell caused by Storm Christoph moved downstream.

Mr Davies, who has owned the business since 2016, was spending Saturday in waterproof clothing, using industrial pumping equipment to rid the property of 1,000 litres of water an hour – a process he expected to take several hours.

It is a bitter pill for the 60-year-old after the flooding of last February and March required £50,000 in repair work.

He estimates this year's damage will be less costly but is still bracing himself for a bill that could reach £25,000.

The flooding in Coleham on Friday. Photo: Owain Betts
Council workers clear up the mess caused by the flooding in Coleham, Shrewsbury

There is also added frustration after his insurance ran out on February 2 last year, just days before the catastrophic flooding hit – with no other firm willing to make an offer.

As Mr Davies and others got to work on the clean-up there was a recurring theme – questions over what has been done to try and reduce the problem since last March, when Shropshire was hit by the worst floods since 2000.

There were questions over the lack of sandbags, what had been done to fix drains which appear not to work, and the warning system – with complaints that the alerts were erratic, leaving little time to take meaningful action.

Mr Davies said: "It went forward, back, then it was almost by the moment. We were basing our decisions on what we were given – that is all you have to go by. They need to get their stuff together."

He said he hoped there would be a fresh approach to trying to stop flooding upstream.

He said: "What they need to do right now is a much more holistic approach."

Mark Davies outside Darwin's Townhouse. The area was flooded on Friday
Some of the damage at Darwin's Townhouse

He said the government should look to pay farmers to flood farmland, but added: "That will be a temporary fix. They need to look at how they do water management much more effectively.

"They are talking about spending god knows how much money on the Big Town Plan, what they need is an existing town plan because this town is dying on its feet. They are digging up all these pavements and they cannot even get sandbags out."

Jonathan Ruddock, 50, who owns The Lighthouse light shop in Coleham, said he was frustrated at the lack of progress in practical measures to reduce the flooding since last March.

He said: "Nothing has happened to alleviate the flooding for 25 businesses in Coleham.

"We are in exactly the same boat as we were 11 months ago. Can someone please take responsibility for alleviating the flood risk in Coleham?"

Jonathan Ruddock inside the Lighthouse shop where he wrapped up the display lights to protect them
The flooding at Coleham Head on Friday

Mr Ruddock highlighted the issue of the drains that run along from his street in the direction of Abbey Foregate.

Pointing at pools of standing water where drains should be, he said: "The drains don't work, they were like this before it was flooded.

"I just want the drains to work. Who do I talk to for that?"

Mr Ruddock said it was more frustrating seeing nothing happen than dealing with the actual clean up.

He said: "There are no boots on the ground, no visible improvement, it is the same situation. That is harder than this."

He added: "The shop has been great. It is extremely successful online, and I can deal with cleaning muddy water but the fact nothing has changed is more upsetting."

Sam Jewell from House Coffee Co which was back open on Saturday
Inside the Spar at Coleham where staff have become used to clearing up floodwater

David and Ursula Trow at Coleham Barbers were spending Saturday cleaning up after seeing the shop under two feet of water – like many others, for the third time since last February.

For them it also comes after nine months of Covid restrictions limiting them to just four months of opening.

Mr Trow said the warnings about the level of the water had fluctuated and by the time he had got to the emergency sandbags none were left.

He said: "Sometimes you feel like chucking it in. It is soul destroying at times, but we won't."

Last year's repairs cost them £10,000 and they are expecting another hefty bill this year, with insurance requiring them to pay the first £2,500, and then 35 per cent after that.

Dawn Lloyd from The Cross Foxes in Shrewsbury where water was being pumped out of the cellar

He added: "I do not know what has been done since last year. Whatever it is, it hasn't made any difference."

Mrs Trow added: "It is our income but we have got people who work here, it is their livelihood who we feel responsible for, our staff have been very loyal to us."

Lee Jordan Bailey, who runs Hair Forum in Coleham, said they had been spared the worst of it by blocking the door and using a constant pump working out of a 'pit' at the front of the shop.

The efforts kept the level from overwhelming the shop, but water still leaked through the walls from neighbouring properties, meaning he will have to replace his floor.

He said there had been "mixed messages" over the level of the river before the flooding, and said most residents were relying on information in a local WhatsApp group.

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