Night-time looters creeping outside their homes leave residents living in fear at Doncaster flood site

It can be scary at night.

Wednesday, 20th November 2019, 10:16 am

It is now two weeks since Bentley flooded, and the water has gone.

But a fear of looters remains on the Willow Bridge caravan park, with claims that thefts from the site still continuing.

It is one of the many issues that has been relayed to Catherine Berry, a community worker at St Peter’s Church, Bentley. She the vicar’s wife, and is now deeply involved in the flood relief effort.

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Stuart Badham, site warden and James Flear, assistant, pictured on the site. Picture :NDFP-19-11-19-WillowBridge-1
Stuart Badham, site warden and James Flear, assistant, pictured on the site. Picture :NDFP-19-11-19-WillowBridge-1

The church has had a major role in co-ordinating some of the local response to the floods.

“People have had gas bottles stolen from the caravan site this week,” she said. “We’ve asked the police to go there. The walls are that thin between the residents and the torches outside, which I think can be scary.

“These are things being stolen from people who are already having to replace all their possessions.”

Caravan site owner Tina Gavin and warden Stuart Badham are also aware of the reports of thefts, and are concerned about what is happening.

Catherine Berry, Community Worker at St Peter’s Bentley is a Church of England Church, is involved inthe flood relief work in the village

“Gas bottles have been taken, and there are people creeping round at night,” said Mr Badham. “There are people who have moved back here because they are worried about things being stolen.

“The police come in to the site to have a look, but we don’t see them after 8.30pm, and it would help if there was a presence. It’s not scary for me, but I think it is for some of the older people here. One said she could hear someone round the back of her caravan. We would like to see more police down here at night.”

Police say they visited the caravan park on November 9 following reports about looting, but when they arrived it was found to be residents removing their own property.

They say there have been no confirmed reports of thefts or burglaries at the site.

Damaged items at the roadside in Bentley after the flooding

Officers have provided a continuous 24 hour presence in the Yarborough Terrace/Hunt Lane area since the beginning of the floods including both static points and roving patrols, and still have officers assigned to roving patrols dedicated solely to Bentley.

Ms Gavin said more help was needed cleaning, and there was a need among the residents for carpets.

The entrance to the site is still lined with sandbag walls, despite the water having retreated back to the river, serving as a visible reminder of what happened two weeks ago.

But the residents here have not been forgotten by the community.

The floodboards have been removed from this home in Hunt Street, Bentley, to allow the floor to dry out after the flooding

While the Free Press is talking to one of the residents, a knock comes to her door.

Outside are a woman and a child, carrying a large plastic storage box. Inside are dozens of pre-cooked meals inside polystyrene takeaway boxes. They are going round the park delivering hot meals, from Bentley High Street Primary School.

But it is not just the caravan site where people are worried about leaving their homes, even after the flooding had caused damage.

On Hunt Lane, pensioner Sanda O’Neil is staying put, despite having had six inches of water on her floor. She has been burgled in the past and does not want it to happen again

It’s not the first time she has been flooded. Last time, in 2007, it took around a year for things to be returned to normal in what has been her home for 40 years.

This time the floods came less than a year after the death of her husband, who did a lot of the work turning things around last time. It means she is coping on her own, although she had family next door and is insured.

Sandra O'Neil, outside her flood damaged home on Hunt Lane, Bentley

“I’m not going to leave,” she said. “I don’t want to. I’m OK, but I’m not all right, and it is OK to live in here now. I’ve still got a few things and I have somewhere to sit down. They are coming to check the electricity tomorrow.”

She said her brother who had also been flooded did not have insurance. But he has had 15 people round to help him with work on the property, as volunteers.

Floorboards have had to be removed to allow the house to dry properly. Dehumidifiers are in great demand in the village too.

“You can’t beat Yorkshire people, the way they have helped.” said Sandra. “But it took a year to sort everying out last time we flooded,”

Cristina Paun lives in a rented home on Frank Road. The house is insured, but she says her possessions, including items of furniture and white goods such the washing machine, were not.

She is a mother of a young child, and hopes to be back in the house in a month. In the mean time she is with relatives nearby.

“People have told me the smell is the issue after the flooding. I think how long it takes to get back depends on what had happened under the carpet. I just care about my baby. I want him to have his own home.”

Outside the Custom Windows and Doors showroom on Conyers Road, which has become a temporary storeroom for supplies for flood victims, Catherine continues to make arrangements to help residents.

She discusses how cat food can be provided for a resident’s pet. As she talks, volunteers move donations out of a Humberside Fire Service vehicle, sent to help the relief effort, and a portable toilet is delivered on the back of a truck, to meet a need from the legion of volunteers.

As she speaks, she receives an offer of 100 sweeping brushes. Another question involved donations of dehumidifiers.

“People are coming in with resources all the time,” she said. “We have been amazed by the response from people, local businesses, and the churches and other religious groups. We are trying to get resources to where they are most needed.

“But what is really needed now is money for people to rebuild what they have lost. We have set up a St Peters Church flood fund, and there have been over £18,000 in donations already to that. There is a South Yorkshire Community Foundation appeal as well. but locally there are a lot who want to donate for local people. We were asked to set up a fund because we’re a charity.

“Uninsured home owners are a particularly vulnerable group, as they’re responsible for their own repairs. We have people who don’t know how they’re going to cope.

“But we have had trademen coming forward offering to do work for free. We’ve had electrians offering to come and make sure houses are safe.”

“On Saturday we had people coming from as far away as Leicester to help clean up There were about 150 from Leicester, many of them from the muslim community there.

“There has been food from the Sikh temple in Doncaster, and from the local McDonalds. It was a really positive day.

“But it is heartbreaking that some of the most vulnerable people are still living in their homes, despite the damp and the smell. There are people who own their homes and don’t have insurance, and just don’t have the resources to sort the repairs out themselves.”

More floods news:

Cristina Paun's home in Frank Road, Bentley was flooded