Live With Widespread Surface Water Flooding, Or Fight It!

Modernising water regulation

Defra writes “We have seen a significant improvement in the water environment and in resilience to flood and drought in recent years. In 2018, 97.9% of bathing waters passed minimum quality standards with 92.4% of these achieving the highest standards of Good or Excellent status. The number of serious pollution incidents caused by the water industry reduced from over 500 per year in the early 1990s to 57 in 2016, and leakage levels are down by around a third since 1994. Water industry investment since privatisation has been around £140 billion, equivalent to around £5 billion annually. The government is investing £2.6 billion from 2015 to 2021 in flood and coastal defence projects, and already 147,000 homes are better protected.

“However, there is more to do to achieve the commitments of clean and plentiful water and reducing the risks of harm from environmental hazards, as set out in ‘A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment” 

Responding to Defra, Burscough Flood Group wrote

“Dear Sir/Madam

“For many years Burscough has suffered from widespread surface water flooding, in extreme weather, caused by inadequate foul and surface water sewers, as well as inadequate surface water drainage ditches and culverts. A strategic development site called Yew Tree Farm (YTF) is currently being built here and several large housing developments have recently been finished and at least two more are ongoing. BFG believe all of the developments are either exacerbating the existing problems or substituting one flood risk for another.

“Q7 I support statutory five year drainage and wastewater management plans and believe that the production of a five yearly published wastewater management plans needs to be regulated, to prevent Local Planning Authorities (LPA) such as West Lancashire Borough Council (WLBC)

and utility companies such as United Utilities (UU)

making public commitments to provide desperately needed infrastructure to win over residents and planning inspectors without ever intending to keep those commitments.

“Evidence: during WLBC’s 2012 local plan consultation and examination in public; WLBC who are the LPA initially advertised in the Ormskirk Champion newspaper that siting a very large strategic development site called YTF in Burscough would bring about the resolution of Burscough’s surface water flooding problems. After the public consultation phase WLBC advertised that the YTF development wouldn’t be allowed to make Burscough’s flooding problem worse. During the examination in public UU were very reassuring to the planning inspector Roger Clewes that UU would get funding to make improvements in 2015.

“Once outline planning for YTF went ahead, several other large housing windfall developments came forward and were built. UU failed to get funding in 2015 and publicly completely changed its position in 2018 by saying that isn’t a problem with its wastewater treatment works in Burscough and there are no plans to improve it in the short term. For further information, see “whatever happened to Burscough’s new wastewater treatment works” attached which has been published widely and documents this issue. NB: There is a considerable amount of evidence associated with this document that can be provided immediately if required.

“Widespread flooding occurred in Burscough in 2012 and 2015. Serious localised flooding occurred in 2016. Most of the flooding that occurs in Burscough goes unrecorded by the Flood Risk Management Authorities (FRMA), see Burscough Flood Records Report contained in several files on

“Q8 I believe that water companies need to be forced to undertake meaningful consultation with residents and the parish council (when there is one), sufficiently early for that evidence to shape their plans. Evidence: Burscough’s residents and the parish council have local knowledge of surface water flooding problems which the Flood Risk Management Authorities (FRMA) do not. In particular, UU have a history of making it difficult to communicate their surface water flooding problems to them. If the public and parish councils were statutory consultees the amount of flooding information collected by UU would increase significantly.

“Q11 The government needs to oversee the drainage and wastewater management plans for several reasons: To ensure that drainage plans are relevant for an areas problems, which may be unique. Evidence: Drainage from new developments in Burscough have always (as far as I am aware) resulted in an increased volume of water flowing into the overall surface water drainage system jointly provided by LCC and UU. Both elements of which are well known to have inadequate capacity. Site based SUDS are the norm but can only go so far to alleviate the impact of development when both systems already flood, so the effects are cumulatively negative. There are no plans by LCC/UU to resolve the underlying problem, nor any restraint from the LPA on building in areas which have or cause surface water flooding problems.

“To ensure that all of the flooding evidence available is being collected and utilised. Evidence: UU doesn’t collect evidence of most of the surface water flooding that occurs in Burscough due to surcharging. Also note that during a public meeting run by LCC and UU with Burscough’s residents in Autumn 2018, UU vigorously defended its decision to send its telephone operators home for a week during the aftermath from Storm Desmond; and UU also stated that it would only accept evidence from flood victims by telephone at the time of the flood.

“To prevent secrecy which is currently prevailing amongst the FRMAs making the public better aware of the flooding and drainage issues; and therefore empower proper public oversight of the planning process in relation to those issues. Evidence: The FRMAs hold making space for water meetings in private and don’t take note or minutes that could be accessed through FOI. The LPA keeps its communications with UU about flooding and drainage in Burscough secret and won’t release them even under FOI/Environmental legislation. It took 12 months for BFG to obtain copies of UU’s drainage advice to WLBC in 2012. Subsequently BFG presented it to the planning inspector during the 2012 local plan examination in public; and that caused significant extra flood protection to be built into Grove Farm in Ormskirk and the YTF site in Burscough. BFG are currently denied access to any information about flooding and drainage in Burscough held by WLBC along with our MP Rosie Cooper. BFG are currently making an appeal to the first-tier tribunal under section 57 of the FOI act reference EA/2018/0219.

“To ensure that drainage plans don’t solve one flooding problem by making another worse. Evidence: the drainage plans for YTF insist that a volume of surface water greater or equal to the volume of sewage discharged from YTF will be removed from UU’s sewers and placed into water courses which ultimately flood a group of homes in Crabtree Lane. The drainage plans for the planned Victoria Park housing development diverts surface water drainage which currently flows into both UU’s foul sewer and overland to a water course attenuates it and puts it all into the water course which ultimately floods a group of homes in Crabtree Lane.

I noticed that in your “Water Resources Management Plans” you have asked for further suggestions and hoped that you might consider one on Drainage and Wastewater Plans. The government needs to renew public confidence in the propriety of LPAs by ensuring that all evidence of flooding from all sources are in the public domain. They also need to oversee LPAs SFRAs to ensure they are live documents which reflect best practice and utilise all of the available evidence.

“Evidence: A 2010 consultant’s report for WLBC on flooding in Burscough was kept secret from the public until 2016. It came to light following a FOI request BFG made to LCC. The report hasn’t informed WLBCs SFRA from 2010 onwards but should have and that might have changed the outcome of the 2012 local plan consultation. In addition, LCC recently published a report from a 2017 study of flooding in Ormskirk. It was published shortly after the current local plan public consultation finished, having been delayed for approximately two years by the LPA’s requests for changes. It could have been published in 2017 when it should have informed WLBC’s SFRA and that might have changed the outcome of the current local plan consultation for Ormskirk.

“Finally, a major study and report on Burscough’s flooding/drainage problems is due to be published in this March this year. Had WLBC delayed its decision on the already controversial Victoria Park housing development and the local plan consultation sufficiently to include the evidence from this study that then might have changed the outcome of the Victoria Park application and the outcome of the local plan consultation for Burscough. Not forgetting that WLBC’s current SFRA should but doesn’t include evidence from two consultants flooding reports paid for by the parish council, WLBC’s own previously secret 2010 report and Burscough Flood Record Report 2016/17 (all published on Any of those documents could have changed the outcome of both the Victoria Park application and the local plan consultation for Burscough.

“Yours sincerely, Gavin Rattray”.

More power to the people!

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