FIREFIGHTERS are stepping in to clear ditches prone to flooding.

Drainage ditches near The Avenue in Benfleet will be cleared as part of a two-day project involving the fire service and volunteers.

Richie Farrant, assistant divisional officer at Essex County Fire and Rescue Service, will work with Essex County Council’s Flood and Water Management team.

He said: “For a number of residents, if they haven’t been able to keep the ditch clear we like to see if we can do anything to help.

“We go in and do vegetation clearance which will hopefully stop the floods occurring.

“This is a one-off goodwill intervention and we won’t and can’t keep coming back to it.

“This is a short term solution and hopefully residents will see what we are doing and come out to help.

“We haven’t identified anywhere on Canvey at the moment, because on Canvey it is more to do with infrastructure which we can’t help with.”

Hadleigh Infant School, in Bilton Road, and residents in The Avenue share responsibility for maintaining the ditch.

Ward councillor Norman Ladzrie is backing the project which will see a weed screen built to stop debris falling into the ditches.

He said: “It’s clear we need to let residents know their legal position. Residents and the school are responsible for maintaining either side of the ditch and, if they don’t, legal action could be taken.”

Residents are invited to join the volunteers on Monday and Tuesday from 10am to 4pm, weather permitting.

Mr Farrant added: “The fire service is putting resources into flood prevention work.

“We are well known for responding to flooding, but we think we can do a bit more with flood prevention and alleviation.”

CANVEY is not being tackled because infracstructure is considered the main problem on the island.

Works have already taken place in West Horndon and Heybridge.

Richie Farrant, assistant divisional officer from the fire service, said: “We haven’t identified anywhere on Canvey at the moment because on Canvey it is more to do with infrastructure, which we can’t help with.”

Dave Blackwell, leader of Canvey Island Independent Party, said: “It’s ridiculous. I’ve been trying since the floods last year to sort this out.

“Last August we had hundreds of properties flooded on Canvey and the same again last month.

“No report was done on Canvey last year and now it seems it is happening again.

“The more and more I’ve delved into it there are no investigations on the drainage systems, because it is too complicated.

“People don’t want to hear ‘we’ve had another meeting’. They need action.”

In the wake of flash flooding across Canvey last month, the Environment Agency removed piles of rubbish which were blocking vital dykes and drains on the island.

An office chair, food wrappers and bin bags of rubbish were dragged out of drains over the weekend.

Workers clean drains and dykes around the island’s 13 pumping stations on a weekly basis.

On average, the agency removes about 80 tonnes of debris a year from drains and dykes.

SCREENS will be put in to protect drains from getting clogged up with debris.

Weed screens, made of a galvanised steel frame, will be placed in the mouth of the culvert at The Avenue to stop any debris getting into the pipework. The screen will collect any large debris before it has a chance to enter the ditch.

They need to be removed regularly and cleaned to make sure they are still an effective preventative measure.