A COUPLE has told how their dream £440,000 home was ruined by floodwater flowing from a newbuild estate.
Neil and Sarah Cranston say they’ve lost out on hundreds of thousands of pounds since their home in Bishop's Stortford, Herts, is now unsellable.
The Cranston's property backs onto land being developed for a newbuild estate, which will feature schools, shops and hundreds of houses.
Chemical process operator Neil, 49, and midwife Sarah, 50, who have four children, had to temporarily move out due to the damage caused by the floods.
They say damp is now a huge problem in their home and an estate agent told them it could be unsellable – adding to their stress.
The couple want Countryside, the developer of St James' Park, to take responsibility and compensate the family for damage and distress caused.
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The firm said the September flooding was caused by "temporary ground conditions" and "was not directly caused by inadequate drainage for the development".
Neil said: "We moved back here in August 2022 and since then we've got all the damp coming back again.
"They just say there was drainage [on the neighbouring development] but there was not – and because of the damp problems we can't sell the house now.
"No one is accepting responsibility, the developers aren't really saying much and the council aren't accepting responsibility.
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"My wife has been in and out of hospital with high blood pressure and stress-related health conditions. It's taken its toll on us and still is now."
Sarah said: "Mentally I am struggling – at the end of the day this is leading to more and more stress.
"My job is stressful enough, being a midwife is one of the most hugely responsible jobs you can have, and my home is supposed to be safety net and safe haven.
"Right now I've got no future, I'm paying a mortgage over the odds and I cant go to another lender.
"It's not fair and I don't know what's going to happen in the future."
Neil say they were aware negotiations were ongoing for a housing development behind the home when they purchased it in 2019, for £437k.
The first phase of homes then became available at St James' Park in summer 2021, according to the Countryside website.
Neil and Sarah claim it was in June 2021 the first flood happened.
They say their house flooded after a heavy summer downpour onto land which had been compacted with no drainage – leaving excess water running into their garden and patio.
And just months later in September they suffered a major flood which forced them to move out of the house entirely.
Pictures and video show the extent of flooding, with inches-deep water pooled around the ground floor.
'MY HOUSE IS RUINED'
Neil and Sarah fear they are now stuck and won't be able to sell the property, which they say dates back to the 1640s.
They want Countryside to take responsibility.
Neil said: "We're fighting the case but we're getting nowhere and these big building companies are getting away with building on unsuitable land.
"Countryside is such a big company. They think they can walk all over people, but I won't go away.
"My house is ruined, and I can't sell it."
A spokesperson for Countryside said: "The Cranstons' home experienced flooding on one occasion, in September 2021, this was not directly caused by inadequate drainage for the development but by temporary ground conditions that were the result of work carried out by a specialist subcontractor who retained design responsibility for the work.
"We were in communication with the Cranston's following this incident, and work was undertaken to rectify the damage by the subcontractor appointed by the Cranstons' house insurance company – and any complications in repairing the damage will need to be addressed by them.
"We would highlight that this was an isolated flooding event that took place in September 2021, and has not reoccurred.
"The groundworks subcontractor has undertaken all necessary mitigation measures to ensure there is not a repeat of the flooding and we do not consider that there is any evidence of the drainage patterns having been altered by the development.
"As this is subject to an ongoing claim we cannot comment further."
Countryside said it could not provide subcontractor's details.
A spokesperson for East Herts District Council said: "We are very sorry for the challenges that Mrs Cranston and her family are currently facing with their property on Thorley Street.
"In 2021, Mrs Cranston contacted us regarding a flooding incident, which was thought to be linked to archaeological excavations before the construction of St. James' Park began.
"It is our understanding that this matter was appropriately referred at the time to the developers as a civil issue.
"This summer, Mrs Cranston got in touch again, this time concerning a rising damp problem within her property.
"Mrs Cranston's local councillor has been out to the property and visited her several times to understand the issues so that they could be reported to our planning teams for further investigation.
"We can confirm that a Flood Risk Assessment and Surface Water Drainage Strategy were submitted and agreed with the Lead Local Flood Authority at the County Council.
"These demonstrated that the development could be achieved with appropriate sustainable drainage systems, to prevent issues of surface water run-off.
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"Conditions were also imposed that require the developer demonstrates that each phase of the development provides adequate sustainable drainage.
"We understand that surveys are being undertaken at the property to establish the cause of the rising damp and have asked Mrs Cranston to provide this evidence to us to help further our investigations."
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