Rats are new menace in Doncaster flood zones
The soldiers and the fire engines have moved on.
But the streets of Fishlake remain very different to those in most other villages across Doncaster.
The roads around the village are still busy. But where there were once the uniforms of the army and the emergency services, they are now packed with workmen’s vans, and skips, parked on roads that only a few weeks ago were underwater.
They are expected to be a familiar site for some time, as work goes on to repair the damage caused across the village by the floodwaters.
There are other signs that something has happened. Now that the waters have retreated, they have revealed traces of damage done to the properties, where tumbled garden walls have collapsed in the floods.
Police remain a presence in the area, and the Doncaster East neighbourhood team continues to provide high visibility patrols to deter any would-be criminals. Recent talk has been of people looking into skips and gardens for discarded items. Police and other agencies are keeping an eye on this and say they will stamp anything like that out.
Pop-up police stations and a permanent council presence at the village hall remain.
But there are glimmers of optimism.
On Trundle Road, one of the streets that was submerged on November 8, Pam Webb, is a busy woman.
Her phone is constantly ringing with messages of goodwill from clients from her Truffle Lodge spa, or from tradesmen involved with repairs.
There are many callers at her door, as work continues.
Pam hit the headlines when she confronted Prime Minister Boris Johnson to get him to pledge that no one would lose out financially due to what happened.
Today she is in the process of getting her business back on its feet.
Four weeks ago, the spa’s swimming pool was damaged, as were many of the floors and soft furnishings. Her pedicure room saw its wooden floor warped beyond repair by the water.
She was devasted to find her insurance had a clause excluding flood damage.
Despite this, she now has a date for re-opening, and says she will be back in business on January 6.
In the meantime, she has been helped by friends and relatives of both herself and some of the self-employed people who work at the spa.
It has been expensive. Fixing the ruined motor on the swimming pool cost nearly £5,000. A new hot tun to replace one that was wrecked is costing another £6,000. Then there is the furniture and floorings, although some helpful businesses have helped by providing items at cost price.
“Not trading for two and a half months is the big hit,” said Pam. “I need to have a date to start up again. I also want to make sure the people who work here, who are self employed, can start earning again – they are affected by this as well as me.”
She now has insurance in place that will cover flood damage, after being referred to a provider following a direct appeal to Downing Street.
But she says there is still much to be done in the village.
And locals are now starting to raise concerns over rats.
Pam has neighbours who have discovered rats since the floods, and says there are concerns that the disaster has helped them get into properties.
“There have been concerns over rodents,” she said. “I think that is scary for the kids locally. I’ve not seen any here, but my neighbour has said she has reported them at her house, and it sounds like it may be an issue in quite a few properties. I understand a lot have been asking the council about it. It is open farmland around here, but I’ve never heard of people seeing rats in their properties here before.”
Council bosses have confirmed they have had reports of rats.
Drew Oxley, head of trading services at the authority, said: “We have had several cases of residents coming to our community hubs in flood affected areas requesting pest control on their property. Our treatments are free and we are proactively asking all neighbouring properties what they require. We cannot put bait in the street for health and safety reasons or at properties where there's no evidence of pests. We would advise residents to go online and book a treatment where there is more information on our website https://www.doncaster.gov.uk/services/animal-welfare-pests-pollution/pest-control.”
Pam says she and other residents are also concerned that the Environment Agency has still not been table to tell residents exactly why the village flooded, other than the unusually high levels of rain, and said the agency had said it would speak to local farmers, who have advocated dreging the river.
“The emergency services said they had never seen anything like it,” she said. “A whole village was told to evacuate, and that is unusual.
“Now I’m trying to help co-ordinate what is happening in the village, and trying to help as much as possible. So many people have been displaced and are living in different areas now. We try to keep in touch with people and reassure them about what’s happening here.”
An Environment Agency spokesperson said: “Following any flood incident, we work with the Lead Local Flood Authority, usually the local authority, whose duty it is to look at the causes and seek to learn lessons – as set out in Section 19 of the Flood and Water Management Act.
“We are working with our partners to develop a funding plan for flood risk management work.
“Dredging would not have prevented the recent flooding incidents along the River Don and we have a wide range of defences in the area that are more valuable to local communities.
“The river system in the area is at around sea level and has a very low gradient which means that water does not move out of the area quickly. It is not the case that the extra capacity created by dredging would have helped as the additional water would not have drained downstream at a faster rate.”
He said areas of the River Don catchment had record-breaking rainfall for autumn weeks before the end of the season. It recorded 474.8mm, breaking its previous record of 425.2mm also set in 2000.
New measures to beef up possible weak spots are already being put in place.
He said: “As part of our ongoing flood recovery work in South Yorkshire we have installed more robust, lower maintenance Jackbox temporary flood defences at a low spot in Fishlake, replacing the pallet barrier defences we previously installed. The aim is for a longer term solution which could see the installation of sheet steel piling in this low spot.”
At its peak there were 39 pumps operating at Fishlake pumping 16 tonnes of water a second. Overnight pumping on November 13 caused the levels to decrease from 2.0m to 0.3m.