FLOODS were made worse this year by a failure to clear water courses of weeds and mud, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has admitted.

The news has been welcomed by Ringwood resident Dennis Whitfield, who told the Journal about his concerns over the “river mismanagement” in July last year.

He claimed that without weed pulling, cutting and dredging, flooding along the river has worsened and exacerbated already high ground water levels.

Mr Whitfield, who lives at flood-hit Stubbings Meadow, said that residents have battled against the deluge for months on end.

He said he was delighted that finally he had been “proved right”.

Mr Whitfield said: “I am delighted that we have received this statement from Owen Paterson. Obviously we are still under water, which is not good at all, but I have been saying for months that part of the problem is that the rivers have not been cleared or managed effectively.

“The flood defences may work for part of Ringwood but certainly not all parts.

“I pay my council tax, like everyone else, and we are walking around in feet of water every day.

“The defences just defend one area and push the water somewhere else. Mr Paterson has said that they have got it wrong and so now, let’s hope that it will be put right.”

Mr Paterson said a number of people have complained to him that failure to clear out rivers and streams made the flooding worse.

“There is a situation out there where water courses are not being cleaned up and getting gummed up,” he said.

“I do not want to point the finger of blame. We obviously have a problem – whether it is the Environment Agency, drainage boards or land managers.”

Since the late summer, Stubbings Meadow Caravan Park has been experiencing problems and Kingsbury’s Lane is still flooded.

Residents in both areas have had to walk through water to reach their front doors and at Stubbings Meadow there have been problems flushing toilets.

Blame has been placed on ground water levels being kept deliberately high, although this has been denied by the Environment Agency.

A spokesman said: “We can’t control ground water levels artificially as they are naturally occurring.”

The Environment Agency is warning people in flood-risk areas to stay on their guard as more rain is expected to fall during the next week.