Flooding in Burscough is inevitable. The dialogue which follows is true, but names have been omitted because the guilt for the ongoing Burscough flooding episodes, and topically Crabtree Lane, ultimately lies with local government authorities and public service providers. There are copious exchanges about responsibility for, or lack of, enforcement against essential watercourses being filled in by developers without planning permission. In one particular incident WLBC asked for photographic evidence from the public!
From WLBC 5 August 2020 “I can assure you that I am not intending to ‘brush off’ your concerns and questions, and I do appreciate the issues that you face. I responded to your last email as the Head of Service to ensure that you received a response that reflected both planning and drainage matters that lie within my service area. I have offered to meet with you to discuss these matters further if you wish, and that offer remains open although I appreciate the difficulties that we are faced with at the present time”.
And “We will try and assist residents wherever possible and where it is our responsibility to do so”. And “I am not aware of any legal responsibility to challenge information but as an authority, we may do so where we have the technical expertise, information and resource to do so, and particularly where we are specifically consulted. It is not possible for me to comment on the ‘height of water issue’, because, as previously stated, we do not have any evidence on this matter to dispute the findings.
From WLBC 6 August 2020 “Please let me know of any suitable dates for a meeting so that we may look to address your ongoing concerns this could be online given the re-emerging Covid issues. This meeting will need to include the Council’s Drainage Engineer. I will be on leave until the end of August but have copied in **** who can make appropriate arrangements for a suitable date in mid-late September. Regarding any recording, the terms of this would need to be agreed in advance by all parties”.
From WLBC 17 August 2020 “The following dates and times are currently available in ****’s diary. Please can you let me know if any are suitable for you? Tuesday 15 September anytime between 9am and 12pm Wednesday 16 September anytime between 9am and 5pm Friday 18 September anytime between 9am and 12pm If none of the above dates are suitable, please advise and I will look at dates for the following week”.
To WLBC 17 August 2020 “Thank you for making contact in relation to flooding issues in Burscough. On Monday 10th August I spoke with members of the Flood group regarding a date for a meeting with WLBC. It was my intention to write to your Leader Mr **** the following day to further the matter. However at 2.00am events took over and my home was absolutely devastated by filthy, polluted flood water yet again, and I have spent all the time since trying to recover. It will be several months before I can resume my life as I knew it. I do not have the luxury of choosing what I do with my time, most probably until October.
“I find your invitation to have a meeting “Interesting”. I am one of your “residents” who regularly pays his Council Tax bill on time, every month, as I have done for the last 34 years, and yet, after 7 days of hard work salvaging my possessions and working every day till I can no longer stand without serious pain, this letter is the first communication I have had from WLBC, and there is absolutely no mention whatsoever of my home being flooded.
“I can only think of 2 reasons for this, the first being a “Total Disconnect” within WLBC and you genuinely do not know about the problem. Bearing in mind, you keep telling us you work closely with your partners, Lancashire County Council who do know about it. Do you not communicate with your partners?
“The other reason is that, despite taking my Council Tax, you still believe that flooding is not your responsibility as you have stated so clearly and so often, particularly throughout the Debacle which is named “The Jacobs’ Report”. Where out of most probably in excess of 50 flaws highlighted within the Report, you do not accept any responsibility, but blame all the other Risk Management Authorities instead. You will be disappointed, but most probably not surprised to learn that Lancashire County Council, in turn, blame you, for all the same things you blame them.
“Remind you of anything? I am unable to give you a date when I will be able to meet with you at this time, as I would prefer to spend my time focussed on measures which are likely to be effective, and maybe later I will be able to give some of my time and effort to those who talk a good job but have no intention of raising a finger to help because the well-being of your residents is considerably less important than forcing through planning applications.
“However, it does present you an opportunity. You clearly had no intention of doing anything in the period between now and 15th September, (a full month). If you are able to make any progress on flooding issues in the meantime, then that gives you a window of opportunity to resolve some of the problems we have highlighted and therefore, there will be less for us to hold you to account for when we do actually meet”.
Yours ***** Council Tax paying home owner, who has been forgotten.
“PS. 11.30pm last night, my automatic pumps and separate diesel pump were activated yet again to save our homes from flooding because your system can not effectively drain this area. Did you have a good sleep last night?”
From WLBC 20 August 2020 “I am so sorry to hear that your home was recently flooded again. Mr **** had asked me to make contact with you on his behalf while he is on leave to arrange a meeting with you on his return. I had not been made aware that you had been flooded when I sent the email to you and I apologise for this. I have since spoken with Mrs Heidi McDougall, Corporate Director of Place and Community and she has suggested I set up a meeting with you, Mr ****, Mr ***** and Mr ******, Flood Risk Officer at Lancashire County Council.
“I note from your email that you do not believe you will have availability for a meeting until October however Mrs McDougall has asked me to move some scheduled meetings in Mr ****’s diary to accommodate a meeting with you sooner rather than later, should you be able to attend. The dates that I have made available are: Friday 4 September – all day; Monday 7 September – pm; Friday 11 September – pm
“Please do get in touch should you be available at any of these times. If there are other times that are more suitable to you, again please do get in touch and I will do my best to accommodate a meeting time to suit you”.
To WLBC 20 August 2020 “Dear ******, thank you for getting back to me 9 full days after my home flooded, this is the first acknowledgement of the fact from any person within WLBC. The performance does not live up to WLBC’s rhetoric.
“Firstly, could you tell me what is the meeting related to, is it as previously discussed, issues to be resolved with Burscough Flood Group, is it related to problems in Crabtree Lane or is it for some other purpose?
“If it is related to the flooding in Crabtree Lane, then you could perhaps advise me ahead of the meeting what responsibilities WLBC have in respect of keeping the residents here safe and in a healthy environment and whether homes being flooded forms any part of WLBC’s remit, as previous correspondence with yourselves has only ever resulted in you deflecting blame to another Authority.
“If it is the case that you may have some solutions, and one would have thought with over 4 years of receiving e-mails from me that someone would have taken the time to go and gather all the relevant information to address the problem, then perhaps you could share these possible solutions with myself and my neighbours who are also suffering flooding problems, ahead of any meeting.
“May I ask, if this relates to flooding in Crabtree Lane, then are the other residents to be invited so they may listen to what you may propose by way of a solution and express their concerns as well.
“Whilst I will be working every day trying to put my home back in a habitable, clean and healthy place to live, resolving the flooding issues must take priority. I will make time for anyone who is genuinely prepared to move things forward and help the residents here, and if that is the case with your officers, then I would be happy to make time.
“In my previous e-mail I referred to those who talk a good job but have no intention of raising a finger. If you feel that this describes your officers then any meeting is only likely to prove fruitless. If however your officers can finally summon up the will to address our problem here, then I will give you as much of my time as you would like.
“I would also like to inform my neighbours as I am sure they are equally concerned about our future here”.
We end this report with a short film of what happens when flooding affects railway lines. By neglect in Burscough, Network Rail may cause untold damage to people and property, and who knew about it? WLBC, LCC, and those who enjoy a good sleep every night!