21st October 2020. Residents across West Lancashire, especially those in flooding hotspots, are being urged to report blocked drains and gullies to Lancashire County Council. With increasingly frequent flooding incidents, Rosie Cooper has been acting upon re s i d e n t s’ concerns about blockages and the lack of cleansing carried out in certain locations. The Champion reported in August how flash floods caused misery for local residents and farmers with flooded homes in Tarleton and Hesketh Bank.
In correspondence with LCC, it was confirmed to Rosie that routine gully cleansing no longer takes place across all areas. Priority ordering now means some gullies are cleansed on a 12 or 24 month routine, with many only on a response service. Rosie said “Lancashire County Council have confirmed to me that they now clear drains less often than they used to, and for many they don’t even check them now unless residents request them to do so.
“While I am wholly dissatisfied that this is an acceptable form of gully and drain maintenance, I am encouraging residents to report each and every time they see a blocked gully to ensure that LCC respond, investigate and clear. “Reports can be made to Lancashire County Council’s Highways Department by phone on 0300 123 6780 or online through the ‘Report It’ service. “Regular reports of specific gullies can then lead to them being added to LCC’s routine schedule”.
Rob Wilson, area highways manager for Lancashire County Council, said “The main cause of the surface water flooding which has affected West Lancashire over recent months is heavy and sustained rainfall which local drainage networks were never designed to cope with, but which are becoming part of our new normal as the UK climate changes.
“This is not usually caused by blocked gullies, but instead because the historic drainage systems do not have the capacity to handle such large volumes of water in such a short time. At the same time we often need to clear highway drains afterwards as the flood waters carry debris into them.
“The way we resource our routine gully clearance operations is based on the data we have collected over many years about the risk of each one becoming blocked. We prioritise those which are more prone to becoming blocked and clean these once a year as part of our regular cycle, however those in vulnerable locations may be cleaned more often if necessary. We also clean some gullies every two years, and others which only very rarely become blocked on a reactive basis. This ensures efficient use of our resources and that we focus on protecting those locations which are most vulnerable to flooding”.
Four years ago “West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper has visited local residents in Ashurst, Skelmersdale, to see first-hand the damage and destruction caused by the floods in June. Floods that left one resident living in a caravan, and an 81-year-old resident having to dispose of his belongings.
A combination of excess water from a culvert running down from Ashurst Beacon and blocked grids forced the water on to a former children’s playground, which then overflowed down on to the residential estate. Residents described to Rosie how the play area was filled with six feet of foul water containing raw sewage.
In trying to stop the flooding residents built a makeshift dam out of scrap wood, the only line of defence between the residents of Long Hey and the pool of filthy water building up behind their properties. Following the visit Rosie said “It was absolutely dreadful to see first-hand how residents’ homes had been utterly devastated by the flood waters.
“Forced out of their homes. Possessions, some of sentimental value and irreplaceable, being thrown in a skip. It is simply appalling what these residents have had to endure through no fault of their own. Still when they turn to the responsible authorities there is little help tackling the problem or support in the clean-up.
“Every time there is a flooding incident it only highlights the lack of meaningful leadership in responding and supporting local residents in their time of need. I have raised my concerns following the visit with each of the relevant authorities. We have to find a way to really help residents”.
West Lancashire readers should remind themselves that in 2020 LCC takes 74.54% of our council tax, the Police and Crime Commissioner takes 10.21%, and we are left with 11.37% for the local services we need. Something stinks, and it is time for a major rethink of the priorities that give LCC a 5.99% increase, the Police 7.25% increase, and WLBC a miserable 2.99% increase.