Burscough, WLBC, And Flooding, The Nine Year Campaign

We report often on flooded Burscough

and we despair with Burscough that Victorian sewage drainage infrastructure standards exist there in 2019. If at first you don’t succeed, you will one day!

On 1 March 2019 Gavin Rattray wrote to the Chief Executive WLBC

“Speaking as member of Burscough Flooding Group, I was very pleased to read that WLBC cited inadequate infrastructure as one of the reasons it scrapped the new local plan and have attached BFG’s recent response to a government consultation on wastewater management for your information. Although, our response was highly critical of WLBC, we believe it is constructive because it shows a way forward.

“In light of WLBC’s about face, can WLBC confirm that it now accepts some or all of BFG’s criticisms and let us know what actions it will now be taking to lower the current unacceptably high level of flooding in Burscough, which it promised to reduce approximately nine years ago? In addition, what actions will WLBC be undertaking to prevent ongoing and new developments in Burscough from increasing flooding further?

“If WLBC wish to meet BFG and have a constructive conversation about how Burscough’s flooding problems may be reduced, we would welcome it. Information about WLBC’s actions to reduce flooding, or its joint actions with its flood risk partners LCC and UU would be very reassuring to Burscough’s residents, many of whom must believe that WLBC doesn’t care about them at all”.

4 April 2019 John Harrison WLBC

to Gavin Rattray “I write in response to your email addressed to Kim Webber regarding the Local Plan. I would first clarify that the decision of Cabinet on 12th March was; “That the Local Delivery Scheme be amended to allow time for the reconsideration of the proposed Local Plan timescale and the preparation of and consultation on a new Local Plan Preferred Options”.

“The preparation of a new Local Plan therefore continues and as part of that process officers are continuing to review the comments received through the Local Plan Review Preferred Options consultation as they consider what amendments should be made to the new Local Plan in response to the comments received and the Cabinet decision. As part of this, the Council continues to liaise with infrastructure providers to consider what the implications of proposals within a new Local Plan might be for infrastructure and how all parties might work together to address any infrastructure improvements required as a result of the development proposals in the new Local Plan.

“In relation to BFG’s criticisms of the Council, these have been addressed at length in previous exchange of correspondence. I do not propose to reopen that debate other than to say that the decision by Cabinet does not change the Council’s position, as set out in previous correspondence, in respect of your criticisms.

“With regard your questions “can WLBC … let us know what actions it will now be taking to lower the current unacceptably high level of flooding in Burscough, which it promised to reduce approximately nine years ago? In addition, what actions will WLBC be undertaking to prevent ongoing and new developments in Burscough from increasing flooding further?”:

“The Council has never promised to reduce flooding in Burscough – indeed it is not within the Council’s power to do so, although it is possible that improvements infrastructure providers such as United Utilities may make to their network and drainage systems that developers may build into their new developments (required by the planning permissions that this Council issues) may reduce the risk of flooding occurring in specific locations in Burscough. However, no-one can guarantee that a given level of flooding (as opposed to flood risk) will be reduced by any alleviation or drainage measures, as there are so many factors that contribute to a flood event, not least the weather and climate change (neither of which the Council have any power over).

“I would repeat the advice that has previously been given in respect of proposed new developments, i.e. new developments are required to provide drainage solutions within their developments so that they do not make existing flood risk worse, and the implementation of those measures are secured by conditions placed on any planning permission.

“Finally, further to your offer of a meeting with BFG to discuss how Burscough’s flooding problems may be reduced, from a planning perspective, the Council are aware of the extensive comments you submitted on behalf of the BFG to the Local Plan Review Preferred Options, and are content to utilise these comments to inform consideration of the relevant aspects of the Local Plan Review as we move forward with it, and a meeting is not necessary at this time on these matters.

“From a drainage engineering perspective, I believe a meeting would be more productive if all parties got round the table to discuss drainage matters. I understand that BFG has attended meetings with Lancashire County Council (as Lead Local Flood Authority) and United Utilities. The LLFA have extended an invitation to future meetings to Dave Owens from the Councils Technical Services team in order to take advantage of his drainage expertise and local knowledge and I have agreed to that request”.

4 April 2019 Gavin Rattray to WLBC. “Thank you for the Council’s email. We would meet any representative of WLBC, however, BFG will now only meet with groups or individuals who first agree to be open, honest and accurate during the meeting and during any follow up to the same. LCC and UU have already agreed to those terms. Please can WLBC put its agreement to those conditions in writing so that we can meet with its representative also.

“I think the Council is choosing to split hairs rather than admit the truth. The truth, as can be seen following, is that Burscough’s flooding problems were highlighted by WLBC as a positive for development at YTF and WLBC said YTF would supply the means to resolve the existing flooding problems. WLBC advertised this in print, whilst at least one of its Councillors was also spreading the same message verbally in public. WLBC’s later statements were watered down.

“Preferred option 1 Burscough Benefits Improved drainage in Burscough, Option 2 Dispersal Weaknesses Difficult to tackle Burscough infrastructure issues with less development” (May/June 2011 Have Your Say LDF Team WLBC). During the 2012 local plan consultation a Conservative councillor attending Burscough Parish Council publicly said that,

“the only way Burscough’s flooding problems would be resolved would be by building Yew Tree Farm”. “Burscough Yew Tree Farm will only be developed when the council are satisfied that problems existing with infrastructure are resolved” (4/1/2012 Have Your Say in Champion Free Paper WLBC)

“. . . any development of the site may actually improve the infrastructure situation in Burscough, or at the very least will not be allowed to make it worse” (13/1/2012 Letter to Gillian Bjork the BAG Chairperson from the Borough Solicitor WLBC)

“Development will only take place when existing problems with infrastructure have been resolved” (Feb 2012 WLBC in Burscough Parish Council Newsletter)

“Burscough Site will only be developed when the council are satisfied existing issues with infrastructure are resolved” (8/8/2012 Have Your Say in the Champion). The meaning of both these statements seems to be entirely open to the interpretation of the Council, therefore I have no idea what it really intends to do. Please can the council clarify what action it will take and/or what changes it will make? Why doesn’t the council adopt plain English in its communications with residents?

“Through my recent communication with the GRC tribunal, in the process of attempting to get FOI information about flooding from WLBC, I found that WLBC had provided incorrect hearsay evidence about BFG to the information commissioner as though it were fact. Therefore, I am concerned that our borough Councillors are equally ill informed about BFG and not aware, for instance, that our views on flooding are pretty mainstream and in agreement with much of those held by the EA, UU and LCC.

“BFG’s aim is to eradicate flooding in Burscough.

“BFG believes what it was told by the EA

that the causes of flooding in Burscough are the following (in order, with the most significant at the top): New development; Inadequate maintenance of the drainage infrastructure; Climate change”.

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