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Was Millbrook padlocked sluice gate opened too late for floods?

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: November 30, 2012

KICKER HERE: The water pours down the main street in Polperro during the flooding.

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TOWNS and villages across South East Cornwall faced a massive clean-up operation this week after heavy downpours caused widespread flooding across the region.

Roads were closed, homes were flooded and businesses were forced to shut up shop after days of torrential rain.

Millbrook, near Torpoint, was one of the worst affected areas.

Local resident Carrie Goater, 48, said firefighters knocked on people's doors asking them to leave their homes. Her house narrowly avoided being flooded. She said: "I thought the water was going to come in. We moved everything off floor level. It's a little bit worrying."

Marilyn Pearce wasn't so lucky. "It flooded all of our hallway downstairs," she said.

"We haven't got any power because we had to turn the electric off. It was just pandemonium. It's very scary stuff," the 54-year-old added.

Locals rallied together to help clean up the Devon and Cornwall pub in West Street after water gushed through the bar. Barmaid Becci Peters said: "The water was past our knees. It was hideous."

An officer from the Environment Agency opened the sluice gates on the lake to drain the water at 9pm.

Paul Gainey, a spokesperson from the agency said: "The officer had extreme difficulty getting to the gate and was assisted by firefighters."

"If the gates hadn't been opened when they did a lot more houses would have been flooded."

Local residents said the gate should have been opened sooner.

Helping to clean up her local pub, Serena Cannon said: "Miraculously the water actually subsided when they opened the gates. They didn't open it in time."

South East Cornwall MP Sheryll Murray said: "It is suspected that much of the flooding in Millbrook was caused by a padlocked sluice gate. The problem was that staff from the Environment Agency were deployed elsewhere. I have asked that local control be given to this important flood measure so that this issue cannot be repeated."

In Polperro the main road turned into a river as water flowed through the village.

Peter Minares was greeted by water seeping into his kitchen when he woke up on Sunday morning.

"I came down at 7 o'clock to make myself a cup of tea and there was water coming in through the back door," he said.

"Luckily no one's been hurt. That's the most important thing," he added.

Sam Baker, who works in the local sweet shop, spent the weekend attempting to clear up the mess after her home was flooded.

The 46-year-old said: "It just keeps coming in from the cliffs. We've got inches of water coming in through the porch.

"This is going to go on for days," she added.

Local residents said the sheer quantity of water caused the village to flood but praised the new flood defences which were completed in 2010.

"The flood system has worked brilliantly but the stream was high because water kept running in from the cliffs around the village," said 42-year-old Carl Aspinwall.

Members of the emergency services worked around the clock to help people deal with the floods.

South East Conrwall MP Sheryll Murray said: "I would like to thank the fire brigade, police and coastguard for their brave efforts at this difficult time."

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