ON AUGUST 27, Winchester city centre went under water without warning.

People were walking up the High Street in knee-deep pools, businesses were forced to close their doors and some residents could not leave their street without wading through on-foot.

But why did this happen, and will it happen again?

Chronicle reporter Sam Hatherley has dived into the past, present and future of flooding in Winchester.

The past

In February 2014 the River Itchen, which runs through the city, burst its banks following days of stormy weather.

The military was drafted in to help build emergency flood defences and a number of residents were trapped in their own homes.

Hampshire Chronicle:

Since then, Winchester City Council has spent £900,000 on a flood prevention scheme.

This includes a reinforced brick wall at River Park with flood gates, which can be operational within 20 minutes.

Prior to this in 2010 Southern Water relined and replaced underground drainage pipes in the High Street and the county council provided new gullies as part of those works before repaving the pedestrianised area.

So why did the extreme weather on August 27 cause such turmoil?

Hampshire Chronicle:

The present

Both Winchester City and Hampshire County councils are conducting and investigation into why this happened.

But Rod Murchie (pictured below), who is a retired water resources manager for the Environment Agency, believes he has the answer.

He told the Chronicle: "This is entirely different to the 2014 floods – it has nothing to do with the river and is down to the extremely intense rain.

"The infrastructure simply could not handle it and there is not a lot that can be done, although. A sad thing to say, but it is just really bad luck."

Hampshire Chronicle:

On August 27, 47mm of rain was recorded in Harestock in less than 24 hours. The average in East Hampshire is 64mm for the whole of August.

Residential areas in Winnall and St Cross were left submerged, with the water rising as high as some doorsteps.

Hampshire Chronicle:

Paul Hamilton, a warden at Winnall Moors, who lives behind the First In Last Out pub in Wales Street, said that residents "don't quite know what to expect".

"There is something wrong here," he continued. "It's an issue that has been regularly reported to the council and it makes me question whether the basic infrastructure works.

"Whenever it rains, there are significantly large puddles left on the roads and pavements.

"On the day I opened my door and there might as well have been a river there.

"I've lived here for eight years and I'm quite near Winnall Moors. When I moved in I was not informed about the potential flooding.

"How worried should we be as residents?"

Hampshire Chronicle:

Mr Hamilton's feeling of uncertainty is shared with many local business owners.

Water gushed into Char Tea in the High Street and sat at around a foot deep.

Natalia Hazeldine, manager at the store, said: "The dirty water flooded in and we were just trying to save as much of our stock as possible.

"We have not calculated how much we lost just yet because a lot of paperwork was destroyed, too. But a large amount of stock is kept on low shelving.

"For a while the drains outside have struggled in the wet weather but nothing has been done."

Hampshire Chronicle:

Noman Qureshi, of Fone World in the High Street, said that his store had to throw away more than £3,000 worth of stock.

Winchester Cathedral, one of the city's most important pieces of history that attracts tourists from across the globe, was also impacted.

See the video below:


So what more can be done prevent these devastating floods from ruining people's livelihoods?

The future

Winchester MP Steve Brine shares the same view as Mr Murchie and said that sometimes "the elements overwhelm mankind".

Rather than working to prevent the floods directly, he believes in solving a much larger problem to help the situation.

Hampshire Chronicle:

Mr Brine said: "I don't think there is much more mitigation work to be done – we have done a lot of it in the city centre.

"Sometimes the elements overwhelm mankind and, from an authority's perspective, it's about the balance between mitigation and the money that can actually be spent.

"We need to look at the global picture and meet our net zero carbon ambitions. It's not too late, and this would of course help with extreme weather."

Winchester City Council leader, Cllr Lucille Thompson, added: "Following the significant disruption caused by the flash flooding the council’s support teams are working with local businesses and residents who have been adversely affected.

"Clearly, we will need to investigate the cause of the flooding in partnership with Hampshire County Council who are the lead local flood authority."

There has been no indication as to when the investigation will conclude. For now, the cause of the floods can only be speculated.

But the one question the Chronicle has for its readers is: are you worried for the future?

Send your thoughts to letters@hampshirechronicle.co.uk.