Like a petty potentate or a minor royal, Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, was back in Kenley yesterday, doing his Young Mr Grace bit of “You’re all doing very well”, shaking hands and patting the backs of fire fighters and soldiers who had spent the previous 10 days and nights battling to keep the local water treatment works from flooding.
Napoleon was supposed to have said that he wanted to surround himself with lucky generals. Politicians need to be lucky, too. Or make their own luck. Johnson’s second visit to the south of Croydon in the space of a week demonstrated how London’s Tory Mayor has keen political judgement, and is able to judge – in this case almost literally – which way the wind is blowing.
The local MP, “Sir” Tricky Dicky Ottaway, after all had managed to visit the flooded area in his own constituency only once. And that was somewhat belatedly, the MP visiting only the previous day. Ottaway had claimed he’d been asked to stay away because he would be a “distraction” – this after there had been non-distracting visits from Eric Pickles and Boris. We suspect that the short drive from his Bletchingley manor house home to Purley just didn’t provide Ottaway with an opportunity for a big enough expenses claim.
So it was astute of Boris to arrive in Kenley just as the storms abated and water levels had started to fall: Lake Roke, the emergency balancing pond created on a primary school’s playing field, which had been filled on Thursday, had vanished by Friday morning; the Purley Pond, in the underpass beneath Purley Cross’s frantic traffic, had also been emptied.
After nearly an inch of rainfall on Friday night, there has now been two days of relative dry and calm, with a forecast for the start of this week promising more respite from the weather.
“Seems army did brilliant job with the sandbags allowing LFB space to hold the water at bay – fantastic team effort,” whoever it is who operates the @MayorofLondon Twitter account tapped out to the world during Johnson’s afternoon visit.
“Water engineers, Royal Artillery, LFB, MPS & the Borough working 24/7 to pump masses of water away from water plant,” Boris added.
“Just been thanking all the agencies for amazing work in Croydon last night to save the Kenley water treatment plant,” was his third tweet, all accompanied with pics to show the Mayor out and about with the emergency workers.
Given that a 53-year-old firefighter in Staines collapsed and died yesterday after his efforts in the Thames floods, it is the least that our politicians, and residents, can do to thanks the emergency services.
In Kenley, the council had declared a “Major Incident” 10 days ago, on February 6, when the water treatment works which provides water to 47,000 local households came under imminent threat of being flooded by the overflowing waters of the Caterham Bourne.
Over the course of the last week and a half, about 100 firefighters using the pumps and pipes of six fire engines had been on duty virtually non-stop, pumping 5,000 gallons a minute of flood water away from the Kenley plant. By Thursday, they were joined by 80 soldiers to fill and lay sandbags around the site. Around 130 local residents, many of them from Dale Road, had to be evacuated from their homes.
“It’s been very tough for residents here, and obviously I’m very grateful to people who’ve agreed to be moved, they’ve been very stoic, but it’s clear the emergency services have averted a potentially horrendous situation,” Johnson said in an interview with the BBC.
“The Army and the fire brigade here have been working flat out and have done an absolutely extraordinary job sandbagging properties and pumping away colossal volumes of water.
“I want to thank all the agencies involved… they’ve demonstrated incredible improvisation when faced with some very old infrastructure that’s been unable to withstand the pressures of the water, and London has them to thank.”
That Johnson has highlighted “some very old infrastructure” ought to signal some intention by the Mayor’s office to pay to update and improve the facilities, which would not just involve the culverted Caterham Bourne, but should also involve Transport for London’s supervision of drainage channels for the A22 Godstone Road, which has been closed by floods for a fortnight.
There is much more water still to come the way of Kenley, Purley and South Croydon. According to John O’Brien, at the source of the bourne in Woldingham the water had been four feet deep at the end of last month. Today, it is 12 feet deep.
For now, the floodwater is on its way down the River Wandle, which had burst its banks at Colliers Wood this morning and will put residents and businesses along Merton High Street on high alert.
- To report rising groundwater levels or flooding, residents are asked to call the Environment Agency Incident Hotline on 0800 80 70 60. You can also sign up to the free groundwater Flood Alert/Warning service by calling Floodline on 0845 988 1188.
- How pipes and tunnels caused our ‘River of Woe’ to flood
- Councils warn flood householders to beware bogus official
- Dale Road flood victims evacuated to stay at council HQ
- Kenley-on-Thames in pictures: how the floods hit Purley
Coming to Croydon
- Chinese New Year children’s event, Upper Norwood Library, Feb 18
- This War! St Gertrude’s Theatre group, Feb 19-22
- Welsh myths children’s event, Upper Norwood Library, Feb 20
- Norwood Society talk, Upper Norwood Library, Feb 20
- Mr Pooter comes to Croydon, Feb 20-22
- Warm and Well event, Upper Norwood Library, Feb 22
- Stop the Incinerator fund-raiser, Feb 24
- Fairtrade Film night, Antenna Cafe, Haynes Lane, Feb 27
- Fairtrade event, Upper Norwood Library, Mar 1
- Coulsdon and Purley Debating Society, Mar 3
- Patchwork and quilting workshop, Upper Norwood Library, Mar 3
- Fairtrade stall at Food Market, Haynes Lane, Mar 8
- Upper Norwood Library Book Club, Mar 15
- Norwood Society talk, Upper Norwood Library, Mar 20
- South Norwood Lakes Playground group workshop, Mar 25
- Croydon Half-marathon, Mar 30
- Crystal Palace Overground Festival, June 26-29
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