Fenland churchyard and church hall have been left flooded
A blocked up drainage ditch is being blamed for the flooding of a Fenland churchyard and its hall.
The Rev Andrew Smith, who is in charge of St Mary’s Church in March has written a letter to a developer demanding he either unblocks or pipes a drainage ditch that runs close to the church in Westry.
However, Guy Clandillon, of Guy James Ltd, who is building homes in a field adjacent to the church claims he has properly piped the ditch and has submitted images to prove it.
And local councillor Jan French, who is part of a county-wide investigation into flooding issues, has also defended him and said Mr Clandillon has stopped building while the situation is looked into and is in the process of buying a piece of land that will provide an area for surface water to go.
Rev Smith said graves in the churchyard and St Mary’s Church hall have both been left under several inches of water following the recent heavy rains.
Flooding first occurred on December 23/24 and had started to dissipate when heavy rain on last Friday (5) led to it happening again.
The floor in the church hall has been ruined and needs replacing and he said the flooded churchyard has caused distress to bereaved families wanting to leave flowers on graves.
It is also making it difficult for new graves to be dug.
Rev Smith said: “We believe we know what’s causing the problem, the developer who is building houses in the field next to the church has built a bridge to the site by filling in a drainage ditch.
“I have testimony from local people who have never seen flooding here in over 70 years, but now the ditch is blocked we have flooding. I have written to Guy James Ltd, the developer involved and hand delivered a letter to the registered office in Cambridge asking them to take action to either unblock the ditch, or to run a pipe through so the water can get away.”
Colin Baker, a neighbouring resident, is also blaming the ‘bunged up’ ditch for the problems. He has relatives’ graves in the churchyard and is horrified by the flooding.
Mr Baker said: “The ditches and dykes in this area are there for a reason, and when they are filled in then you get this sort of problem with flooding. I have lived opposite the church for over 50 years and have never seen the churchyard flooded.
“I have only ever seen that ditch 50 per cent full, so it has previously served its purposes in taking the water away."
However, Coun French, who lives close to the site, said it is clear from Mr Clandillon's photographs that the ditch has definitely been piped properly and therefore that should not be causing the problems at St Mary's.
She believes the problem could be down to ditches further up not being cleared or could lay in the area around Church Gardens, which often has surface water laying around.
"There used to be someone clear the ditches around the church every year, but I don't think it has been done for sometime, so that could be a contributing factor. There is also a lot of surface water, and of course I don't think we have ever had water table levels this high for a long time and that is not helping the situation," said Coun French.
She added: "Clearly there is a problem and it needs to be resolved, but I think it is wrong to blame Guy James Ltd, he appears to have properly piped the ditch. It needs to be properly investigated as does all the flooding issues in the area. Parts of March were flooded three times last year - it is a massive problem."