by Rowan Liptrot
THE CONCERNED chairman of Uppermill Community Association has written an open letter to Debbie Abrahams MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth about recent flooding in the area.
Nick Watts is specifically worried about the lack of provision of sandbags by Oldham Council which many believe would have prevented some damage to vulnerable properties during storms.
Numerous properties and businesses in Uppermill, as well as across other Saddleworth villages, were badly flooding last November when sudden, heavy rain caused flooding.
Mr Watts’ letter follows another he sent to Mrs Abrahams last year after flooding in the area to which she replied and promised to take up the issue with Oldham Council.
The main obstacle to the provision of sandbags seems to be it is claimed they cause an environmental hazard when they become contaminated by floodwater.
But Mr Watts’ letter argues this is an unsatisfactory response in the eyes of the community and action needs to be taken to constitute an appropriate flooding plan.
He writes: “I’ve since done some research and can see that other areas that have been affected by the recent flooding include Bradford, Stockport, Kirklees and Cumbria and all their councils provide sandbags to their community members in times of flood emergencies.
“This really does bring into question Oldham’s stance and reluctance to provide sandbags to the Saddleworth community members during times of desperate need and I’d urge you Debbie please to champion this issue and help them see good sense.”
At a recent community meeting the Mountain Rescue team advised how they had been part of the effort to fill sandbags which were distributed to neighbouring communities.
A survey on the ‘Uppermill Community’ Facebook page – which has more than 6,000 members – proved to be in support of the provision of sandbags.
40 out of 47 respondents agreed sandbags would have been helpful during the recent flooding – but people found they were the least available item but also the most requested.
But Mr Watts claims this feedback has clearly been rejected, saying: “When we passed this information on at the flooding conference, Oldham Council members simply moved on to a new stance that “sandbags are not provided because of environmental issues”.
“It seems wasteful to hold a meeting between the community and the authorities if the communication is only one way and the community feedback is rejected and not acted upon.”
His letter urges Mrs Abrahams to stick to her promise, and calls for more involvement by all borough councillors rather than just a handful.
He ends: “We live in fear the next flood could come along at any moment, unexpectedly ruining peoples lives – and it’s a disappointment to see some things have not moved as quickly as we’d hoped or needed.
“But I’m sure the Saddleworth community will continue to rally together with their commendable wartime-like spirit, looking after each other as they have done for the past four storms.
“That is unless yourself, the Parish or the borough could help move things forwards a bit more rapidly for us please and ideally take a look at the common sense of our neighbouring councils.
“And also if possible not forgetting to keep your own promise last April to provide sandbags please!”
Go here to read the full letter.