UPDATE: Christchurch residents forced to buy own sandbags to protect homes- £30 for pack of four (From Bournemouth Echo)
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Flood-hit residents blast Christchurch council and MP Chris Chope over "total lack of support"
ANGRY residents in a flood-hit flat block have blasted a “total lack of support” from Christchurch council and their MP, saying they have been forced to buy their own sandbags.
Residents in Conifer Close – some of whom were evacuated on Christmas Day – say they are the “forgotten corner” of Christchurch and living in fear of further flooding.
Residents say they requested sandbags from the council but were told they would have to purchase Floodsacks at £30 for a pack of four.
Today, as the Government insisted councils shouldn't charge for sandbags and the cost would be met centrally, Christchurch council clarified their position saying they don’t charge for them in an emergency and if the Environment Agency put out a red warning, they will provide them free of charge.
A spokesperson said at the moment people are concerned and are requesting them just in case, and in instance they charge £30 for a flood pack.
And yesterday, while PM David Cameron promised that “money is no object” when it comes to helping flood victims, Conifer Close residents told the Daily Echo they have had to buy their own sandbags and plastic sheeting.
They have also asked for help from their MP Chris Chope, but say he has not accepted their invitations to visit them.
Steve Richards, whose dad Ken has been living with him since Christmas, said they requested sandbags from Christchurch council last week but were told they would have to purchase them at £30 for a pack of four.
“My brother bought 50 at an incredibly high cost but 50 sandbags goes nowhere,” he said.
“We feel so helpless, pleading for help and no-one’s giving it, yet you switch on the television and the Prime Minister is pledging that no-one will be left vulnerable and money’s no object.”
Paul Richards, a resident at the Stourbanks flats, was told it was not Christchurch council policy to issue sandbags or plastic sheeting.
He said: “We’ve tried repeatedly over the past seven weeks to get some help, we’re in a desperate position now and we need the most basic help. It’s like living in the Lost World.”
The Stourbanks Residents’ Association has spent £750 on sandbags but residents are now just waiting to see whether this will be enough.
Judy Betteridge, secretary of the association, has written to the Prime Minister to tell him of their frustrations. She has also twice invited their MP Mr Chope to visit them.
“I know we’re probably very small fry compared to what’s going on in the country but nevertheless these are our homes,” she said.
“We feel very much we are on our own down here.”
And Colin West, treasurer of the association, said: “We’ve been pushed from pillar to post. Everybody here is over 75 – I’m nearly 90 – and yet we’ve had very little support. People are very frustrated.”
Attempts were made to contact Mr Chope but he was unavailable for comment.
Neil Farmer, Strategic Director at Christchurch Borough Council: “Local Christchurch councillors and council officers have been working with residents in Conifer Close to keep them informed of possible flooding incidents.
"Thankfully the levels in the River Stour have reduced significantly in recent days.
"The council is in regular contact with the Environment Agency to monitor river levels so adequate warning can be given to residents if river levels are predicted to rise towards the levels experienced on Christmas Day.
"If necessary, temporary accommodation will be provided for residents by the council if the conditions worsen and further flooding of the properties is predicted.
"The council will liaise with the management company for the flats and with the Environment Agency to explore a flood alleviation scheme that would protect the properties from further flooding.”