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The wonderful flood heroes of Buckinghamshire

PUBLISHED: 16:48 30 May 2014 | UPDATED: 16:48 30 May 2014

RAF personnel helped out in Marlow, Maureen McLean photographed them at Higginson Park

RAF personnel helped out in Marlow, Maureen McLean photographed them at Higginson Park

MAUREEN MCLEAN

If there was one silver lining to come out of the despair as the floods wreaked havoc across the county, it was that community spirit was alive and well

In these days when so many of us don’t “really know” our neighbours it swiftly became apparent during the floods that more than pity was on offer. The debate about the speed of the response by officialdom will run on, but what’s clear is that as the crisis deepened, local people, community groups and businesses did their utmost to help each other.

Everything from a kind word and welcome cup of tea to a place to stay made life seem a little better for those most severely affected.

Physically able young men heaving sandbags for strangers, canoeists rescuing stranded pets, village shops and restaurants handing out warm food and vital stock, people on dry land simply asking “What do need me to do?”, all had a part to play.

And even away from the main Thames floods there were villages dealing with flash floods and the horrible problem of sewerage system failures.

The TV news cameras may have turned to the plight of those flooded out in mid-February, but for many the misery had started long before then.

We will never know all of your names, and so this list will not be complete, but here we say ‘thank you and well done’ to all who gave time, money, physical effort or belongings to those in need. If your name is not here it’s simply because we realise that we could fill every page of this issue with details of those who lent a hand. Consider yourself thanked with our first entry…

People Power

•The volunteer flood wardens across Buckinghamshire and those who stood with them. These people, who end up paying for their own kit, kept residents informed and helped co-ordinate teams of rescuers and those in need of assistance. If we ran the Honours system, all your names would be top of the list.

•The organisers and doers. Whether it was keeping a tea urn running, helping a neighbour move chickens to safety or washing and drying soaked clothes for those without power, you played your part. Ar Longridge Activity Centre in Marlow, where thousands of pounds worth of damaged was caused, more than 120 people turned up during just one day to help with the clear-up, painting, cleaning and tree cutting.

•Parish and district councillors. Sometimes we wonder why we go out to vote, but during the floods these were the people who, whether in small communities like Bishopstone, Hughenden, Monks Risborough and Chalfont St Peter or larger towns like Aylesbury, used their local knowledge to get results and watch out for us all. And many are still battling for answers and solutions to ensure blocked drains and failed pumps don’t leave us in despair again.

•Faith groups. Churches opened their doors, provided halls for respite, practical help and kind words.

•Specialist truck and 4x4 drivers. We’re not talking about idiots who thought it was fun to plough through the water creating waves, but those who went out to help others. People like dog trainers Ryan Spinks and Ollie Milsom who spent a week in Cookham, towing cars, people and pets to safety.

The Rescue Services and Armed Forces

While firefighters came in for huge praise for their efforts in Marlow, the service’s personnel were themselves overwhelmed by the generosity of local people, including those flooded out at Garnet Court, who arrived with regular supplies of food during the crisis.

Thames Valley Police co-ordinated the huge effort with other services and the Environment Agency, committing hundreds of officers to the worst-hit areas, of Buckinghamshire and Berkshire.

ACC John Campbell said: “I would personally like to thank all those people who have volunteered their time to help in the flood affected areas.”

Eight teams from Transport for Bucks (TfB) worked round the clock, setting up sandbag stockpiles at Marlow and sandbag walls at Chalfont St Peter as the Misbourne rose. They dealt with road closures from Burnham, Iver and Wooburn Green in the south to Padbury near Buckingham.

The Businesses of Bucks

There was a fabulous response, from multi-national ‘giants’ to the smallest local operations. Grant & Stone, for instance, donated six tons of sand and over 200 hessian sacks to the Marlow Command Centre, while Gibbs & Dandy, Maidenhead, disposed of sandbags, included contaminated ones, having previously provided them free of charge at their High Wycombe, Henley and Maidenhead branches.

Asda delivered supplies to areas like Marlow and Bourne End, including waders, torches, batteries, flasks, tow ropes, buckets, mops and shovels. People took toys to Marlow’s Crowne Plaza when evacuated families moved in. The hotel itself offered complimentary hot drinks and shower in its Quad Club to those affected by the flood.

Many responded when appeals for food for emergency workers went out, including Tom Kerridge at the Hand and Flowers, who sent hot soup down to those in Marlow.

Take care if you sell or buy

Local property owners in, for example, Aylesbury, Thame, and Weston Turville ¬– among the areas hardest hit by the recent floods - are being reminded that they will have to re-live the experience when they come to sell.

Conversely, for recent buyers who were not clearly informed or aware of the risk of flooding to their new home, then the courts may be the next stop.

Sarah Plumridge, property solicitor at Aylesbury law firm, Parrott & Coales LLP, says: “Anyone buying or selling needs to be careful about investigations and responses when it comes to flooding. It’s important that property owners do not avoid answering questions about any flooding in the pre-contract stage otherwise compensation issues may arise if the answers were untrue or fraudulent.”

Most property transactions use the Law Society’s pre-contract property information form to collect information from a seller, which includes specific questions about whether any part of the property has ever been flooded. Where any flooding is reported, the seller has to explain what caused it, such as ground water or a river breaching its banks.

And sellers who have given false answers to pre-contract questions have found themselves facing the consequences in court, paying damages to cover a reduced value for the property as well as compensation for inconvenience.

Others involved in the purchase route may also have a responsibility to a buyer. A surveyor could be potentially liable if they could have reasonably identified any potential for flooding at the property during a full building survey. Similarly, the conveyancing process should include relevant searches and additional pre-contract questions, with the buyer kept informed, if an area is known to be at risk of flooding.

Sarah recommends that a flooding search is carried out and this provides valuable information on whether there is an overall flooding risk to a site.

Purchasers should also check with insurance companies and obtain building insurance prior to exchange of contracts to unearth any huge premiums there may be incurred due to potential flooding risk.

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