Eastleigh residents face the risk of flooding unless remedial work is undertaken to counteract the erosion of the Monks Brook riverbank.
That’s the stark warning from Sam Snook , a local environmental campaigner who claims that recent housing developments at Valley Park and the Pirelli site – and the office complexes at the top of Chesnut Avenue -have increased the runoff feeding into Monks Brook and that this, combined with poor maintenance, has led to erosion of the banks and the increased risk of flooding.
Retired sewer man Sam has been monitoring the situation at Monks Brook for a number of years and is able to recall what it was like nearly 70 years ago when he played in the river as a child.
Eastleigh MP Chris Huhne, currently minister for climate change, recently wrote to the environment agency on Sam’s behalf alerting them to obstructions to the water flow and several large cracks to the concrete retaining wall of the riverbank by Nightingale Avenue which Sam had identified.
“The environment agency came down to look at the walls with me and agreed they were cracked“explained Sam “but then they wrote back to Chris Huhne and said they weren’t cracked at all.”
In fact the environment agency have told Chris Huhne that they believed the river was flowing freely and that any damage to the bank would have to be remedied by the ‘riparian owner’ which in this case in would appear to be the owner or residents of a newly constructed block of flats.
Therefore, they declare, the environment agency would not be taking any action.
I accompanied Sam to take another look at the concrete banks last week – and sure enough cracks are there and although the river is indeed flowing freely at the moment, there seems to a considerable build up of detritus beached on a shingle banks under both the Nightingale and Chesnut Avenue road bridges .
I walked with Sam following the river through Fleming Park to the newly re opened stretch on the former golf course.
Here we found wildlife abounding as we spotted a yellowhammer flitting through the trees while in the river several brown trout basked mid stream while schools of minnows darted in and out of shadows.
There are signs here of bank erosion – sections of bank are fenced off with warning signs in place.
I too, can remember this stretch from my own childhood and am amazed to see how much it has widened.
Sam points further up river towards the motorway junction:
“From here up to Chandlers Ford it’s all concrete culverts and in winter, after it’s rained, the river shoots out here like a hosepipe.” he says.
I recall that last winter, where Monks Brook cuts through Valley Park, an elderly widow had a narrow escape when a 50 foot tall Alder came crashing down just stopping a few feet short of her bungalow. The bank on which it had grown for many years had been washed away.
She told me:
“When I moved here 15 years ago Monks brook was just a stream – now in winter it is a raging torrent’
The environment agency has even sent me a letter to say I am in danger of flooding. I find it very worrying”
The environment agency has a flood map on their website which clearly shows the anticipated extent of any flooding from Monks Brook.
It can be seen that many homes in Eastleigh and Chandlers Ford are deemed to be at risk including the new flats at the site of the former youth club on Nightingale Avenue.
Sam Snook maintains that any further building development within this area will only exacerbate the problem and raise the risk of flooding.
Time will tell if Sam is right with his predictions and if the environment agency and council planners have been wrong not to act on them.
At least we know they were warned.
My money is on Sam. What about you?