Posted by: westlancashirerecord | November 28, 2017

Borough Gets It Wrong On Flood Warnings

 West Lancashire Borough Council (WLBC) recently issued a Press Release that advised residents to “report flooding to the Environment Agency” (EA), and detailed how they could receive Flood Warnings. That information was very misleading and may well lead to increased levels of under-recording of local flooding incidents.

The EA is primarily associated with rivers and coastal flooding, and the majority of flooding in West Lancashire and certainly in terms of Burscough, has largely been due to surcharging of foul/rainwater sewers and blocked drains, which in fact must be reported to United Utilities (UU). Flooded roads must be reported to Lancashire County Council if they are badly affected, for example Course Lane in Newburgh, a stretch of which has now been flooded for almost a week.

WLBC’s advice on how to receive flood warnings was also misleading as those only relate to coastal and river flooding, which fortunately infrequently affect West Lancashire. Such warnings will NOT warn of sewer or road flooding.

It is difficult to believe that WLBC would not know the correct flood-reporting procedures, especially considering this area has experienced increased frequency of flooding in recent years. When flooding does occur, it is vital that it is reported to the correct agency.

United Utilities 24hr telephone number is 0345 672 3723 or email put “Network Complaints Dept” in the subject line. If you have recurring foul or surface water sewer flooding problems, get in touch with BFG and we can advise you how to make your complaint count, email:   Stephen McCloskey Chairman BFG.


Cllr John Hodson comments “The EA state: “If you wish to report a flooding incident, or have concerns that your property may be immediately at risk of flooding, please contact the Environment Agency on 0345 988 1188 where Environment Agency staff with up to date information will be able to assist you”. This is the correct number as listed under ‘Floodline” on the official EA website and so the information on WLBC website is correct and is designed to reduce confusion rather than add to it as BFG’s statement risks doing so”.



  1. In response to this claim I would say that it is BFG who have got it wrong this time! At the public meeting recently held in Aughton to discuss various flooding issues, the Environment Agency clearly stated that in order to REDUCE confusion as to who to contact in the event of flooding, that they should be the first point of contact at which they provided the FLOODLINE telephone number: 0345 988 1188 and that they would provide information as to the appropriate agency to deal with it. The EA also asked that people present circulate this as widely as possible.
    This was in response to various comments which arose from frustrated residents who had tried to contact the Borough Council and/or United Utilities etc. previously. Therefore, the WLBC press release and website are correct in that they advise residents to contact EA in reporting flood issues. Until EA change this advice, that is the best course of action if you are at immediate risk of flooding.
    Cllr. JE Hodson
    Portfolio for Planning

    • Thanks for that explanation.

    • From the Chairman of Burscough Flooding Group
      Thank you Cllr Hodson for your comments.

      Lots of things were said at the meeting, and some perhaps cynical people have pointed out that what is said at a meeting isn’t worth the paper it’s written on! Was it not the EA that said at the same meeting that the Hoscar Pumps weren’t being switched off because of a lack of money and that they had a healthy budget, and yet at previous meetings that BFG has attended the EA has stated with certainty that the pumps WOULD be switched off because the EA’s budget had been CUT? In any case, actions speak louder than words, as the old saying goes.

      The Environment Agency’s web page regarding the reporting of flooding ( clearly gives the following information:

      -Blocked sewers and burst water mains should be reported to [United Utilities]
      – Public drains to be cleared and flooded roads should be reported to [Lancashire County Council]
      – Flooding from the sea or a main river should be reported to [ENVIRONMENT AGENCY]

      I telephoned the EA on the number provided by the WLBC Press Release to confirm this information. After spending nearly 6 minutes navigating the various ‘options’ and then providing my personal details required to log the call, I spoke to a very helpful and professional call handler in Northern Ireland. After informing them of the situation, they confirmed that the information regarding remits of the above types of flooding was true.

      As WLBC will know, the vast majority of flooding regularly experienced in Burscough (and presumably the wider area of West Lancashire) is of the type reportable to either UU or LCC which is also the Lead Local Flood Authority. I’d suggest that the vast majority of West Lancashire residents weren’t aware of which agency has specific responsibilities which would amplify the importance of obtaining such information quickly and accurately in time of need.

      A particular case that has received much media attention recently is that of Bob from Gower Gardens whose property has been affected by flooding of raw, untreated sewage as has nearby Alexander Close, which has suffered from sewage flooding from drains over many years and requires professional Environmental cleaning after each event due to the health risk. The EA and their flood warnings can’t do anything for them as it is the responsibility of UU as I understand.

      As can be clearly seen on social media, many Burscough residents are already very concerned at the possibility of increased flooding due to the great amount of development earmarked for Burscough within the current Local Plan, which also lends to the importance of clear, unambiguous information.

      Burscough Flooding Group believes that it is in residents’ best interests to report flooding to the agency responsible for the specific type as quickly as possible and recognises that residents are best served if we all work together, and to that end BFG would be happy to meet with Burscough Labour Councillors and Cllr Hodson as Portfolio Holder for Planning for serious discussions on how to mitigate the effects of and protect Burscough from a problem that only appears to be getting worse.

      Stephen McCloskey. Chairman. Burscough Flooding Group

      • The whole fragmented system of Flooding and Drainage and the complex array of legislation covering a range of agencies has led to a confusing scenario for the general public I’m afraid and until there is a specific single Dept. to handle the subject I fear it will continue to be the case. Therefore the rationale of the EA having a single ‘Floodline’ point of contact is the best option under the current circumstances. I am of the understanding that EA have the technological means to very quickly identify which area and which issue is the likely one affecting any given caller so as to ‘signpost’ the caller to the correct agency.
        I am currently conducting a tour of the Borough accompanied by the Borough Engineer visiting all the ‘hotspots’ in order to gain a much more up to date appreciation of the issues and also to try to identify uncharted culverts etc. which do not show up on any current drainage plans. We have already visited Parbold and Burscough, to be followed by Ormskirk and Halsall. Once completed, I will be pressing the relevant Portfolio holder at LCC as the LLFA as to how they propose to assess these locations and to press for SWMP where appropriate.

        Cllr. JE Hodson
        Portfolio for Planning

      • Isn’t there some urgency for those who are already known to suffer from raw sewage in the homes and gardens to be prioritised as “hotspots” and action taken by the relevant body? That would help to defuse some of the anger felt by them and those who represent them?

  2. I’m sure we’ve all heard of the phrase “Cut out the middle-man” so as to save time and money, which in the majority case of Burscough and possibly West Lancashire’s cases, the EA is. The rationale of reporting flooding correctly is identified on the EA’s webpage although it would not even be necessary to view that page (or spend time on a telephone) had WLBC included the brief contact details on their press release.

    Perhaps WLBC can tell us how many flooding incidents so far have been of the type reportable directly to EA?

    Whilst commendable that Cllr Hodson is touring the Borough, BFG has been collecting data and other information for quite some time although one obstacle (of several) we have encountered is that the LLFA appears not very keen to receive it. Certainly in time for the compiling of key reports. We would welcome Cllr Hodson to meet us to discuss hotspots clearly identified and the problems we have faced since an original Flooding Group was set up around 11 years ago.

    The Borough Engineer has been very helpful to BFG and confirmed some time ago the correct agencies to report flooding to, which the BFG included in our Press Release.

    Much time and confusion would have been prevented had WLBC included it in their Press Release because MOST flooding is of the type reportable to either UU or LCC.

    • 11 years on from a Flooding Group and here we are in 2017 Burscough is still facing serious problems? Perhaps the 2006 Planning Portfolio Holder’s reports could identify why nothing was achieved then? Planning Portfolio holder I Grant, Housing and Community Services holder Westley, Street Scene holder Ashcroft, all may have been involved in flooding reports?

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