Posted by: westlancashirerecord | February 9, 2017

Satellite Pumping Stations Latest From Halsall

At the Halsall Parish Meeting 8th February 2017 the Parish Council (HPC) invited Cllr John Hodson (WLBC Portfolio for Planning), Maureen Mills the Halsall Labour Borough Councillor, the Environment Agency and NFU, to provide an update on the proposed closure of the satellite pumping stations. They also invited John Herbert from Scarisbrick Parish Council to attend as he has been heavily involved in raising the importance of this issue.

Chairman Brian Young welcomed approximately 45 members of the public and Borough councillors Maureen Mills, Gail and John Hodson, Dale Gibbons (Environment Agency) and John Herbert. halsall0802 [click to enlarge]

Also in the audience was Gavin Rattray (Burscough flood action Group). No councillors from the Conservative Party were present.

Cllr Mills started the meeting by submitting her monthly report which consisted of how she was assisting elderly residents who were overpaying council tax, helping a family with council house issues, liaising with the church commissioners to preserve the Halsall ruins, and working with residents with the ongoing issues at 14A New Cut Lane. Cllr Mills also announced she has been appointed to the Borough planning committee, and that she will be running for the County Council seat for the Southern (West Lancashire West) division in May.

The public forum part of the meeting was then opened, with some local issues raised before the presentations and debate on the flooding issue began. Dale Gibbons (EA) began his presentation by giving an update on the Alt Crossens situation by stating that he been in post since December and has been tasked with helping with the transition from the EA being responsible for the satellite pumping stations to transferring over to another body.

He was at pains to point out that the main pumping station at Crossens was not subject to closure as reported in the local press as it serves a dual purpose of preventing flooding to over 600 homes as well as being linked to the satellite pumping infrastructure. The EA have just spent £5.1 million on upgrading the system and it was not in danger of closure.

Dale explained that there is a 25 point process that a new body must complete to be able to take ownership and run the drainage system. He has written to all landowners, farmers and concerned parties informing them that the EA has extended the original date of closure until till 31st December 2018. He recognised there was strong local support from the poll conducted by the NFU which returned that 95% of farmers are interested in being involved in the idea of an IDB being set up in the very near future. The extension was due to the requirement from DEFRA to seek an amendment to the Land Drainage Act and that draft legislation is being worked on.

Background to the issue. There has not been an IDB in the North West for over 30 years, the last ceased when Northwest water was formed. Looking at options Dale stated that “There would have to a drainage levy assigned to landowners and a special levy from the councils involved, the charge would be made in accordance with the rateable value data”.

John Herbert asked Dale “With article 50 about to be triggered, there will be very little or no parliament time to deal with this issue and why are you setting deadlines?” The reply was that they had extended the deadline due to the legislation process and to give time for the creation of alternative options to manage the pumping stations, one being a “Water Level Management Board” (IDB). They do recognise the issues regarding parliamentary time, but this is the process it has to go through.

The EA is no longer funded by central government to pump flood zone or flood affected areas and a public consultation engagement was needed and the first step was to create a steering group which will be key in creating a new Water Level Management Board.

Cllr Mills asked “What is required to set up a steering group and who should sit on it? And was advised “Key stakeholders eg farmers/ landowners, councillors and church commission, around 10 to 13 maximum to make the group work efficiently.

John Herbert directed the next question to John Hodson johnhod “When the invitation to join a steering group arrives, what will be your response?” Cllr Hodson addressed the public and stated WLBC would commit to have representation on the Panel and that in all likelihood it would be himself as Portfolio holder with an Officer in attendance. He went on to say how he had recently attended a multi-agency forum in Leeds regarding flood issues, where the range of problems and who was responsible was complex, he added “What is critical is funding, the real need for central funding is crucial for this to work.”

John Herbert commented that IDB’s funds are at present capped, revenue support grants fund IDB’s up to 86% of their total cost, however these grants from central government would be ceasing in the near future, a serious concern for all IDB’s across the country and therefore the government may have to rethink its position. John Herbert went on to add that the Borough Council and Parish Council need to communicate that yes, there might eventually be extra costs that have to passed on, but this is a major issue, something that does/will affect everyone in West Lancashire, not just those who might be directly affected by flooding. For example the economy in general would suffer. 11% of west Lancashire’s economy derives from agriculture; West Lancashire has twice as many agriculture businesses than the national average, creating more than 10,000 jobs locally.

Residents expressed concerns that they/the public had not been informed of any progress, following the public meeting which was arranged by the Parish Council last year on the closure of the pumps. Dale stated that once a steering group had been created, information would be passed freely to Parish Councils on a regular basis. The Parish Council also confirmed they would communicate out regular progress updates and would periodically invite members of the steering group to attend meetings.

The question was asked, how soon can a “steering group” be created? Dale hoped that something should be in place by the beginning of April and that letters to interested parties will be sent out in the very near future. Here is the latest news pumpscan0802-001 pumpscan0802-002 from a few days ago, click to read.

At 21.00hrs, the discussion was rounded up by the Parish Chairman who thanked all for their contribution and looks forward to progress being made.The meeting was suspended briefly for people to depart and the parish council meeting carried on till 21.30hrs.

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