URGENT action needs to be taken to stop a blocked stream from flooding homes in Hadleigh, councillors say.

Residents of The Crescent, The Avenue and Bilton Road have been left with thousands of pounds damage to their homes after a stream running under their properties became blocked.

The blockage meant a nearby dyke became blocked, sending water rushing into their gardens in August and then again on Christmas Eve.

Nearby drains are also still blocked up, with water rushing out of manhole covers and down The Avenue.

Concerned councillors held crisis talks with affected residents this weekend to try to determine where the blockage lies and what needs to be done to resolve it.

Jill Reeves, Conservative county councillor for Hadleigh, said: “I feel very strongly we need to get something done about this. It must be an absolute nightmare for these residents, like being on a knife-edge.”

The stream runs from playing fields in Hadleigh Junior School and out to Prittle Brook, in Belfairs Park.

Responsibility for its upkeep is thought to lie with the dozens of property owners whose homes back on to it.

Residents claim neighbours throw sacks of rubbish and even light bonfires in the waterway, leaving it clogged up.

However, Norman Ladzrie, Conservatory Castle Point councillor for St James’ ward, said the Environment Agency needs to take responsibility for the stream to ensure it is properly cleaned.

Mr Ladzrie said: “How critical does it have to get for residents before the Environment Agency takes on responsibility for this?

“These people feel somewhat isolated and don’t know what to do or who to turn to. With all this bad weather we are having, these ditches cannot cope, but we cannot keep having these people’s homes flooded.”

A spokeswoman for the Environment Agency said: “We do have permissive powers to carry out repairs on watercourses owned by other people, which are not classified as a main river, if it has the potential to put large numbers of people or property at risk from flooding.

“This dyke does not fall under that category, so we do not have permissive powers to perform any maintenance. It is not our responsibility and if others want it to be, there would have to be a legal agreement.”

Essex County Council is now the lead authority on surface water flooding.

County councillor Ray Howard said: “It’s very sad and depressing when people are flooded. If there is a section of water course blocked, we need to look into it.

We have successfully managed to resolve problems elsewhere in the borough.

“Before, no one was taking charge and everyone was passing the buck, but now the county council is the lead authority on flooding, we are in a different position to get everyone working.”