Widower losing sleep and scared to leave his home due to flooding problems

A widower has told how he dare not leave his own home and has lost sleep over flooding problems.

Fred Forth, 75, has called for more help with flood prevention and protection after repeatedly finding water pouring into his home in Port Clarence, in Middlesbrough, most recently in August.

He said: “It’s beyond belief. I moved here in 1989. This is the fourth time. I thought once was enough.”

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After flooding in 1996, 1999, 2013 and last month, he told of the toll it had taken on him: “I look out of my window and it starts to rain and I’m thinking, is it or isn’t it going to come back?

Flooding on Fieldview Close, Port Clarence in August 2023.Flooding on Fieldview Close, Port Clarence in August 2023.
Flooding on Fieldview Close, Port Clarence in August 2023.

“I daren’t leave the house because I don’t want to come back and find the house covered in water. It started raining and I didn’t sleep for two or three days. That’s how scared I am. I’m on edge all the time. I’ve come to the point now where I just don’t want to do anything anymore.”

The home where he lives alone on Fieldview Close was flooded a few weeks ago when torrential rain left some streets in the small Stockton village inaccessible to drivers, with water levels reaching garden gates, overflowing drains and kids using rubber dinghies to float around the estate.

He said: “When the water was coming down I was panicking. It came up the road and down the driveway. It poured out of the drains. It was like a waterfall. It was at the back and front and in it came, I couldn’t do anything about it. I had to come in and start lifting stuff.”

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The retired fireman and ICI photographer described water coming in as fast as tankers could pump it out. He since had his laminate floor taken away leaving bare boards and he has dehumidifiers running every day to get rid of the damp.

Fred Forth who has suffered flooding in his Port Clarence home.Fred Forth who has suffered flooding in his Port Clarence home.
Fred Forth who has suffered flooding in his Port Clarence home.

“It’s going to be like this for another six months,” he said, describing it as the worst flooding he had experienced since 1996. On that occasion, he said: “It was up to my knees. It took six months to get the house sorted. They promised us it wouldn’t happen again.”

It did happen again in 1999. He added: “It came through the door a bit but the fire brigade were brilliant. They did a hell of a job, they kept the water from really pouring in. They were here for four days pumping it out. They put sandbags all the way around the house.”

Then in December 2013, he was one of those hit by catastrophic tidal flooding which forced people from their homes and devastated wildlife, with 250 people evacuated to Billingham Forum and 32 homes suffered severe internal flooding which brought contaminated salt water affecting 140 properties and writing off 80 cars in Port Clarence.

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This led to a £16m flood defence scheme, designed to last at least 50 years, with which it was hoped people would no longer be flooded out. It was said it reduced the risk to 350 homes and 32 businesses in Port Clarence and Seal Sands.

Now it has reoccurred, Fred is worried about it happening again, particularly in winter as he has Raynaud’s, which affects his blood circulation. And he wants more action taken as he believes not enough has been done to prevent and protect from flooding.

He said: “They keep telling you, it’s all right, it’s not going to happen again and they give you excuse after excuse. I don’t believe anybody anymore. Something needs doing.”

A Northumbrian Water spokesman said: “Flooding of any kind is distressing and we’re sorry that Mr Forth had to experience what he did when this happened. We’re in contact with him, offering support and are working with the Environment Agency and the local authority to help protect the people and communities in Port Clarence from this happening again.

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“On August 2, a combination of persistent rainfall, unusually high tidal waters and issues with a tidal valve at the local pumping station, which would normally help prevent tidal water from overwhelming our network, contributed to localised flooding in the Port Clarence area. When it happened, we were quick to respond, carrying out a temporary repair on our valve which immediately improved tidal protection and reduced flooding in the affected areas.

“Our teams worked 24 hours a day to pump water away from houses and with partners to offer support to residents, as well as operating additional tankers to help reduce water levels in the streets as quickly as possible. We are now in the process of planning a long-term fix to the storm water pumping station to make sure that this issue does not happen again, and are keen to work with and support our partners with their flood protection plans for the area.”

Councillor Clare Gamble, Stockton Council’s cabinet member for environment and transport, said: “We continue to work with partners such as the Environment Agency to reduce flood risks across the borough including in Port Clarence. We attended the flood in Port Clarence as part of a multi-agency response to protect residents and their homes.”

An Environment Agency spokesman said: “We know the devastating impact that flooding can have, which is why protecting people and communities is our top priority. We are dedicated to reducing the risk of flooding across the North-east and we are working with the local council and Northumbrian Water to make them more resilient to flooding.”

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The agency said a tidal scheme finished in 2016 provided a high standard of protection from surges and it was working with Stockton Council to improve flood resilience for Port Clarence. Plans are at an early stage and will be discussed with the community by the end of the year.