Kenilworth’s ford warning system did not automatically activate during February floods

The warning sign at the Castle Road/Forrest Road junction
The warning sign at the Castle Road/Forrest Road junction
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The warning system installed at the ford in Castle Road in Kenilworth did not activate automatically during the floods on Saturday December 6, it has emerged.

The £52,000 system was not working correctly due to a detector at the ford being broken on the preceding Thursday, meaning the system had to be activated manually by Warwickshire County Council (WCC) engineers.

Flood warning. Copyright: Stuart Insall

Flood warning. Copyright: Stuart Insall

David Matthewson, the team leader of WCC’s Traffic Control and Information Systems Team, explained that although the system was not on automatically, the signs were only off for two-and-a-half hours on Sunday morning when barriers installed by WCC Highways Agency were already in place, blocking Castle Road.

He added: “The system should be back working on Monday February 22. I’m hoping we don’t get any significant rain in the meantime.”

When working correctly, the signs in Warwick Road and Beehive Hill forewarn drivers when the ford’s water levels are high and activate when the water depth is above 100mm. They divert drivers away from Castle Road so they can avoid the ford.

The signs nearer the ford activate even if only a small amount of water is one the road to try and prevent drivers from losing control of their vehicles by aquaplaning.

The system should be back working on Monday February 22. I’m hoping we don’t get any significant rain in the meantime.

David Matthewson

At the last Kenilworth Town Council meeting, Cllr Mike Hitchens (Con, Park Hill), put the flooding into perspective. He said: “Since 1892 we had the worst February day on record - 32mm of rain fell on Saturday.

“The river had risen by about 1.8m in that time. At about 1.5m the floodplains came into effect which slowed the rate of rise right down. However, Northaw Flood Group had put a plan into action on Friday night.

“We were very lucky at the weekend but the plans in place worked. Northaw Flood Group’s pre-planning was absolutely brilliant.”

Northaw Flood Group, also known as Finham Brook Flood Action Group, puts plans into place whenever a warning of heavy rain is issued.

Sue Fitton, a member of the group, described the process of preparing for a potential flood. She said: “Residents prepare their own houses for possible flooding, and prepare to help each other deploying what flood protection measures they have.

“We look out for each other and vulnerable residents, and be prepared to evacuate if needs be.”

Cllr Dave Shilton (Park Hill, Con) also confirmed the news that the trash screen at the ford will be cleared more frequently. It was previously cleared once a month by Warwick District Council on behalf of WCC.