Posted by: westlancashirerecord | March 21, 2018

Halsall Flood Meeting

The WLBC Planning Portfolio holder Cllr John Hodson  reports back on the flood meeting last night. In attendance were Mr Tony Griffiths UU Wastewater Network Strategy Manager; Mr Steve Howell, Asset Manager UU; Ms Rachel Bacon, Wastewater Network Manager UU; Ms Sharma Jencitis Business Analyst UU; Mr Paul Blakely LCC (as LLFA, Lancashire); Mr Andrew Martin Sefton (as Sefton LLFA); Mr David Owens WLBC Principal Engineer; Cllr JE Hodson WLBC Portfolio for Planning; Cllr Maureen Mills WLBC Halsall Ward; Cllr Gareth Dowling representing Rosie Cooper MP.

“The order of proceedings followed a presentation by Mr Griffiths who gave an overview of the roles and responsibilities of the various Agencies which was clear and informative, outlining the areas each of the bodies were responsible for. Mr Griffiths then went on to outline the area most affected, i.e. New Cut Lane/Guildford Road, which illustrated the cross-boundary of LLFAs and where the flood zone modelling showed the most likely patterns. There was some questioning of the accuracy of the modelling with various anecdotal examples coming from the audience who were quite understandably upset with the past & present situation, i.e. sewage in gardens etc. Mr Griffiths went on to explain that the modelling was necessary as a starting point so that an accurate picture of exactly what is happening can be developed before remedial measure can be considered.

“Mr Griffiths informed the meeting that the investigations had started and had taken place over the preceding 4 weeks and were still proceeding. He also informed that he had, as Network Manager, to prioritise where resources were allocated across the range of UU Network, some 72 miles of sewers and lots of interesting stats on what they handle. To a degree it would be a case of managing expectations. The issue of compensation was raised and Mr. Griffiths asked to speak with the people concerned after the meeting.

“Mr Paul Blakely for LCC gave an overview of the roles and responsibilities of LCC as LLFA for Lancashire, identifying their position as Strategic Flood Authority, Statutory Planning Consultees and co-ordinators for the Flood Forum which consists of all the various Agencies. When questioned as to why the Flood Forum met in private rather that with public present and that there were no minutes of the meeting kept (quite a bit of disquiet about this, what’s the secret etc) he went on to explain that a) the discussions were of a highly technical nature b) that there was Commercial sensitivity around certain issues, but mainly c) Data Protection as sensitive information would be aired about individual properties and their circumstances in regard to compensation/claims etc. This seemed to go a long way to reassure people that there was at least a plausible explanation for how the Flood Forum’s were arranged.

“Mr Blakely then went on to do a short presentation on Highways where he informed as to the Priority Program for gulley cleaning and examination. The timings and frequencies were challenged from the floor but Mr. Blakely was unable to verify as he did not have the background date with him as he is not the Officer responsible for Highways.

“Mr Martin as Sefton LLFA then did a short verbal presentation which basically supported the points raised by Mr Blakely in terms of roles and responsibilities etc.

“Mr Owens’ presentation demonstrated the role of WLBC in terms of Planning with a particular focus on SUDS (Sustainable Drainage Systems)  and their role in reducing the volume of surface water entering the Stage System, the main cause of over capacity again, his slides were especially informative, demonstrating the natural cycle of water  in the environment and how the principle of SUDS is to replicate those patterns as closely as possible, Mr Owens also outlined that the one-time proposed SAB (SUDS Approval Board) was an excellent idea and would have gone a long way towards tackling some of the most difficult aspects of long term drainage management and maintenance. Mr Griffiths advised the meeting that apparently DEFRA are revisiting this topic and there may be some movement in the not too distant future.

“I finished the meeting with a very short overview of the existing Local Plan 2012 – 2027 and its limitations within the NPPF and what we were hoping to achieve with the forthcoming LP which will replace, or subsume the existing one sometime in 2019-2020 and that although no final decisions had at this stage been made, it could likely last for a longer period so as to allow for a much more Strategic approach to such matters as SUDS etc. I explained that while the whole current system around drainage was very complicated and fragmented, the meeting tonight demonstrated a willingness for all the agencies to come together to try and seek solutions rather than operate in ‘silos’ as had happened to date. Although major upgrades would probably not take place in the very near future, the meeting was evidence that we should all work together to at least try to do everything that could be done asap in order to alleviate the suffering of residents who were affected.

“Summary: Overall, there were quite a few disruptions with several people talking at once about half way through the meeting, a degree of ‘getting things off chests’ etc. but the meeting was generally good natured and definitely productive. I have tried to capture the main points rather than verbatim as that would have been impossible!

“I would be extremely surprised if there wasn’t significant attention to the sewage problems by UU following this meeting, the depth of feeling by the community was conveyed (very effectively!) to the UU Officials in the room and speaking with all of the Officers from the other Agencies afterwards, they stated that this level of intervention by UU or any other Utility they have dealt with, was unprecedented and very encouraging. Whatever the shortcomings in the past I think that we have turned a corner and that there is a genuine will and determination to try and get on top of issues in the short term instead of relying on the usual very slow turn of the cogs, to get things done. There is also a definite culture shift in that rather than trying to pass the buck or shift the blame to other agencies there is an acknowledgement that we all, including the public, need to pull together”.

And that won’t come soon enough for the long suffering residents of New Cut Lane and other locals who want an end to this  once and for all!

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