A CEREMONY to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Thatcham floods and to mark the construction of defences to prevent a repeat was held last week.
Roads in the town turned to rivers as three months worth of rain fell in 24 hours on July 20, 2007 – leaving more than 1,100 properties damaged.
The water dried up in days, but people were forced out of their homes for months and some still fear a repeat event whenever it rains heavily.
The Thatcham Flood Forum was set up in the wake of the floods to look at what had contributed to the incident and draw up a plan to tackle it.
West Berkshire Council, together with local residents, the Environment Agency and Thames Water, completed a Surface Water Management Plan (SWMP) in 2010 as one of six pilot studies, which were part-funded by Defra.
The strategy drew up plans for a series of basins designed to store flood water and release it at a controlled rate into Thatcham’s sewers to prevent them from being overwhelmed.
Last Wednesday, representatives from the different agencies gathered at Tull Way to witness the official start of construction work on a basin there.
The project has been funded by Government grants through the Environment Agency, together with contributions from West Berkshire Council and Thatcham Town Council.
Funds have also been donated by local businesses, including £20,000 from Scottish and Southern Power Distribution.
Donations from residents and other businesses have also been matchfunded by the Greenham Trust.
Chairman of the Thatcham Flood Forum, Iain Dunn, said: “We are delighted with the response to our fundraising efforts to support these important flood defences.
“We continue to work closely with West Berkshire Council to raise money to ensure the flood defence projects go ahead and that the entire drainage infrastructure in Thatcham is properly maintained.
“We are extremely grateful to all the local organisations and individuals who raised the £122,000, as without these important local funds, we simply would not have the £4m so desperately needed to complete Thatcham’s flood protection scheme by late 2018.”
Newbury MP Richard Benyon, who was minister for the natural environment from 2010 until 2013, was present at the ceremony.
He said: “This is part two of four schemes, which will give protection to every house and business in Thatcham as part of a £25m flood spend in West Berkshire and a direct result of the floods 10 years ago.
“There are still people in Thatcham who find it hard to sleep at night when there’s heavy rain and this will give them peace of mind and help them with their insurance premiums.”
Mr Benyon thanked the work of the flood forum and those who had drawn up the SWMP, which he said had been used as a model around the country.
“It’s saved houses from flooding already, but this is long-term security that people need,” he said.
West Berkshire’s councillor for highways and transport, Jeanette Clifford (Con, Northcroft), said: “A great deal has been achieved in Thatcham since the terrible floods in 2007 and we have worked tirelessly with our partners to provide the best possible protection against future floods.
“We completed the first reservoir at Cold Ash Hill in 2014 and Tull Way is on schedule for completion in October.
“Two further schemes at Dunston Park and South East Thatcham are planned for next year and, subject to grant funding, we will continue to implement one scheme a year until all the proposed flood defences are in place.”