OLDHAM COUNCIL insists it did everything in its power to help Saddleworth residents hit by Boxing Day floods after concerns were raised by villagers about support and response times.
In the midst of Christmas festivities, heavy rain caused some of the worst floods ever seen locally.
In Uppermill, the water level of the River Tame swelled to more than 1.6metres – exceeding the highest ever reading by the Environment of 1.01metres in 2012.
Villagers rallied together to pump out the water and clean up homes and businesses, as well as lay sandbags to prevent more water washing in.
But many locals who tried to contact Oldham Council for help, including Uppermill Community Association chair Nick Watts, claim they were left frustrated and unaided.
Nick said: “I checked Oldham Council’s website to find that they offered a “First Response” Floodline.
“Having rung the phone number I got no answer. I sent an email to the address but got no immediate response.
“In fact, it was only 10 days later after a subsequent reminder email copying in my councillors that I got a reply.”
Instead, Nick turned to social media using the association’s Facebook group to help people coordinate support throughout the village and beyond.
He continued: “There was one single OMBC representative in the village at the time of the flooding but I was advised he was handing out penalty notices to vehicles that had been moved away from the flooding areas.”
But Oldham Council insisted they did their best to support emergency services tackling the floods and help residents in Saddleworth as well as across the borough.
Councillor Barbara Brownridge, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Cooperatives, said: “A number of Oldham Council services and staff provided support to other agencies to alleviate the impact of the flooding in various parts of the borough.
“We dealt with several phone calls and incidents of reported flooding to roads in the Uppermill, Grotton and Shaw areas.
“Responding to floods that result from main rivers the responsibility falls down to the Environment Agency and is always led by the emergency services.
“Oldham Council’s role is to offer support to the emergency response. Our staff – a number volunteering their own time – worked round the clock dealing with flooded highways, diverting traffic and making provisional arrangements to move affected residents from sheltered housing accommodation.
“Our services have also been carrying out recovery work in Uppermill such as cleaning the park and the local memorial garden.
“Some residents contacted the “out of hours” phone service on Boxing Day but were unable to get through to an operator. This was due to the high volume of calls received and we’re looking to make the necessary improvements to resolve this.”
She added “Following the heavy downpours, there was an incident where a penalty charge notice (PCN) was issued on a vehicle which was parked in a disabled bay.
“When we reviewed the matter, we found the vehicle was pushed out of a flooded area nearby and we have rescinded the notice.”
Other areas of Saddleworth affected by the flooding included Greenfield where Well-i-Hole and Chew Valley Road quickly became impassable as the River Tame burst its banks.
At Saddleworth Cricket Club, the pitch and bowling green both disappeared under a sea of water, and the same occurred at Greenfield.
Delph New Road was closed to traffic as water cascaded over the surface, and in Dobcross new rivers wound their way quickly down the hilly roads.
In Diggle, frustrated residents cited blocked road drains and gullies as adding to the misery of the floods, while Delph was particularly hard hit too.
An Environment Agency spokesperson said: “The Environment Agency is working across the country to help people affected by flooding. The River Tame in Uppermill and Delph was high, especially after the huge amount of rainfall we have had this winter, but it is too early to confirm whether it reached historic levels.
“We continue to work closely with emergency services and local authorities to help support communities affected by flooding. We continue to monitor and issue warnings as required and are working 24/7 checking and maintaining flood defences, keeping watercourses free of blockages and monitoring water levels.
“If people want more advice on what to do to prepare for flooding they can visit our website. They can also check their own flood risk and whether they can sign up for our free flood warning service. Alternatively people can call Floodline on 0345 9881188 for more information.
Find out more about how to protect your home from flooding via the Oldham Council website or to report any critical issues please call 0161 770 2222.