Hereford Times community reporter Theresa Brandeberry visits Fownhope and Woolhope, where villagers fear the lengthy closure of roads hit by flooding is taking its toll on their community

VILLAGERS in Fownhope, near Hereford, are becoming increasingly worried about the toll flooding is taking on their community.

They say businesses are being hit and normal life disrupted by damage to roads caused by Storm Dennis earlier this month.

Members of Fownhope Parish Council also say they have been frustrated by what they describe as a lack of communication from Herefordshire Council about the flooding and subsequent road closures around their village.

Many businesses have been badly hit.

Several people have made use of the flood victims compensation scheme run by Herefordshire Council.

Those who have filled in the online form say it is quick and easy to do, and the council is fast- tracking the payments.

It has been welcome relief to local businesses in the village, some of which are facing the very real threat of closure.

The parish council is looking at ways to help reduce traffic through the tiny lanes of Haugh Wood and Woolhope while the village waits for road repairs.

One way could be co-ordinated lift sharing scheme.

It turns out help is at hand. Liftshare is a website and app that works in exactly the same way as, but helps match people to journeys instead of rooms.

Registration is simple and free. Just click here:

You add details of where you are going and when, either as driver or passenger.

Liftshare will match your journey with others making the same journey. You then decide if you want to share the lift with the people Liftshare suggests.

Everyone is rated – just like on Airbnb – and if lots of people from Fownhope use the app then the greater likelihood that the journeys it suggests will be shared among neighbours and friends in the village.

Another idea is a voluntary one way system. A map, drawn by Nick Kingsford and based on an idea by Mark Waters, although has no legal authority, is a handy guide.

It is a suggestion, even if a few of the villagers decide to follow it, then congestion could be reduced.

Around the village Mordiford Bridge has now reopened, but Holme Lacy Causeway remains closed.

The B4224 Fiddler's Green to Fownhope road remains closed.

Repair work began on the causeway on Monday (February 24). Herefordshire Council expects the work to take three weeks, depending on the weather.

As some stage temporary traffic lights may be used so the road can be partially re-opened.

Progress will be reviewed at the end of this week and further updates will be provided.

Mike Simmons, local businessman and parish councillor, said:"The frustration is not knowing. We are trying to offer support to the village, and Herefordshire Council has not communicated with us about the progress."

Dan Teague, villager and businessman, said: "My family owns a local pub, and the trade has dropped dramatically as a direct result of the road closure.

"The £2,500 offered as flood compensation is a drop in the ocean when looking at staying open and paying staff."

The route in to Fownhope is muddy, mainly single track and adding greatly to journey times.

Although Herefordshire Council has put on a bus to take primary schoolchildren back and forth, many parents will still be making the journey.

The emergency services are also a concern. The fire brigade has a retained service in the village, but the crew are equally split either side of the road closure, so if a call-out comes only half would make it in on time.

The ambulance service would take a considerable time to reach the village, and with an above-average age population for Herefordshire – and considerably higher than the UK average – there is concern for the vulnerable in the village.

Nearby Woolhope is seeing five times the usual traffic travelling through the village, and many people are worried about the impact it will have on the roads.

Villagers are asking for better signage before March 1 when Luxhall Caravan Park opens for the season.

The road would certainly be difficult for towed touring caravans at present.

Gareth Williams, parish councillor and managing director of Caplor Energy, said: "The general feeling is that we understand resources are stretched and many have been hit badly by the storms. However, we need to look at ways to support the residents and businesses within the area and keep Fownhope open for business".

Councillor John Harrington, Cabinet Member for Infrastructure and Transport, said: “We are aware of the impact the closure of the B4224 continues to have on the residents and businesses of Fownhope and the surrounding areas.

"Our response to the countywide damage and disruption inflicted by Storm Dennis has meant that our resources have been stretched, with over 70 other sites across the county having been damaged by flood waters.

“Our partners, Balfour Beatty Living Places, have been keeping the community updated but we regularly review our approach to see how we can communicate more effectively.

"We are meeting with the Parish Council next week, when we will discuss the issues raised, listen to their concerns, and work together to alleviate the impact of the closure as far as possible.

“We agree with the local community that it is crucial that the road is repaired and reopened as a matter of urgency, and we are working to achieve this. However, our priority is to ensure we identify the best solution and deliver a high-quality, lasting and safe repair. We will be sharing details of the proposed programme of works with the Parish Council next week, and will progress to carrying out the works as soon as we can.”

“Tackling this landslide is our top priority, alongside the reinstatement of the Holme Lacy Causeway, but I would encourage residents to contact their MP to lobby central government for better long term funding for our highways, enabling us to enhance the resilience of our roads to future flood events.

“Please be reassured that we are working as quickly as we can. These are unprecedented events and we appreciate the patience and fortitude the community is showing.”

The parish council will be holding a meeting in the village hall at 7pm on Wednesday, March 4. Councillors are asking for everyone to come along and share their views.