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Village Submerged After Sluice Gate Tampering

November 8, 2014

h/t Joe Public




An interesting piece of news from the Telegraph. It appears that tampering with a sluice gate contributed to the flooding of one of the hardest hit areas on the Somerset levels last winter.


Two men have been linked to a deluge that devastated parts of Somerset during some of the worst floods on British records.

A Telegraph investigation has found that a sluice gate used to control water flow from a river to a moor had apparently been unlawfully opened before the nearby village of Thorney was inundated last winter.

Water drained into the moor and the entire village was submerged in 4ft of water for 12 weeks. Ancient houses were destroyed and some residents are still without a home.

The chaos was part of the wider floods that swept through Britain, which caused a political crisis and was blamed on the Environment Agency’s failure to dredge local rivers.

A criminal investigation may be opened into the role played by two men who allegedly drained water through sluice gates that should have been kept shut.

One of the men, Lee Goddard, who lives in Hambridge, Somerset, pleaded guilty in August to contravening land drainage laws when he “interfered” with the sluice. Residents have alleged that he wanted to save his own land from water by diverting it elsewhere.

He was investigated as part of a private prosecution brought by the Parrett Internal Drainage Board, along with the second man, who is fighting the allegations.

The drainage board, which operates the sluice, states that the men broke by-laws that prohibit people from tampering with its structures.

Both men are due to appear at Taunton magistrates’ court on Dec 1: Goddard for sentencing and the other man for trial.

The file is now being examined by the Crown Prosecution Service. A CPS spokesman confirmed that it had received the papers and was reviewing them, but said no decision had been taken on the case as yet.

Goddard admitted “interfering” with Slabgate Sluice in Hambridge, which is about five miles from Thorney, between Dec 20 and 23, 2013.

The sluice is made up of two 4.4ft square gates used to control the flow of water from the River Isle to West Moor, which is situated next to Thorney.

The gates are opened during the summer to send water to the moor for cattle grazing. By opening them during the wet weather, flood levels on West Moor apparently rose as did levels in the village.



Residents have also alleged that padlocks securing the sluice were broken when it was “interfered” with and that the mechanism was filled with screws to prevent it from closing.


At the height of the floods, hundreds of people throughout Somerset were forced to flee their houses — with January described as the wettest in south-east and southern-central England in 100 years.

More than 600 homes and 17,000 acres of farmland were inundated with water and villages were cut off. In Thorney alone, more than a dozen houses were swamped and residents were forced to abandon them.



 Read the full story here.

  1. mitigatedsceptic permalink
    November 8, 2014 8:48 pm

    If true, it looks like a criminal offence to interfere with such a sluice but is there not quite a moral dilemma? Had the drainage people really the moral, not just the legal, right to knowingly stop fields being drained?

  2. Keith Willshaw permalink
    November 8, 2014 10:00 pm

    Yes the drainage people had that right. Saving farmland at the expense of peoples homes is hardly a moral choice. The sluice has been there since 1835 and is managed by the drainage board who’s elected officials are expected to oversee its operation impartially.

    Unlike the quango that is the Environment Agency they are accountable to the local people.

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