To the WLBC Corporate Director of Place and Community
Copy to MP Rosie Cooper, from Gavin Rattray
“Thank you for your letter of the 21st October 2020 regarding the ENTEC 2010 Burscough Flood Investigation Report. It is notable that 10 years after the event, WLBC are formally confirming that the report was not shared with planning policy colleagues when formulating the 2012 local plan and not shared formally with councillors but only informally shared with some councillors.
“The rest of your response raises more questions and concerns than it solves with some of my points not responded to. It is clear that you have found difficulty in gaining relevant information that needs responding to, some of your comments relate to hearsay and presumptions, therefore for this and the other reasons that I state below, I believe that the way forward is an independent inquiry into the commissioning, production, publication and implementation of the report and its findings. Unless, you can convince me otherwise, it looks as though taxpayer’s money has funded this report and in the “Public Interest” the public require answers to the many unanswered questions over the failure of this extremely useful report to inform staff, all types of councillors, partners, residents, consultants, developers, businesses etc.
“It was Trevor Dunn as the Principal Engineer who was sent this document on 30 March 2010, I would have thought it extremely unusual and strange if a few people in Planning were not aware of Burscough’s flooding problems and the commissioning of the ENTEC report. If no one in the Planning department was aware then it has major problems which reflects badly on WLBC.
“The ENTEC report was not referenced in the WLBC produced SFRAs 2010, 2012, or the new Draft SFRA L1 Feb 2017 whereby it took until December 2019 to produce the final version which was substantially different to the draft version and which now contains the ENTEC report. Nearly 10 years from its publication it becomes part of the SFRA providing valuable information on flooding in Burscough! The report also did not inform the 2012 Local Plan due to its absence. That raises serious questions about other local and regional documents that it should be connected with and the partners who needed/required this information. I understand that the ENTEC report is now available on the Council’s website, can you inform me when this happened?
“I have seen copies of all the MSfW Meetings from 16 October 2012 to 26 January 2016. The 27 November 2015 minutes are missing. The members attending these meetings voted not to publish minutes for meetings following the 26 January 2016, therefore no minutes exist from that date. Previously I was not aware that this ENTEC report was a discussion point in the MSfW minutes, however, I have checked this again following your letter and can confirm that there is no mention in the MSfW minutes of the ENTEC report and in many of the meetings it is only Trevor who attended from WLBC. I would welcome it if you could provide me with a copy of the minutes that contain the discussion on the ENTEC report. I found that in the 13 sets of minutes, issues concerning Burscough only occurred three times, this is a concern due to the flooding and developments ongoing at the time.
“I have copies of WLBC Interagency Meetings of 4th, 5th, 7th, 9th and 11th and the last copy is dated 11 November 2009 and therefore before publication. It is possible that there could be mentioned in the Interagency Meetings sometime after this meeting. I have noticed that they don’t show any attendance from LCC.
“I observed in the 7th meeting minutes that “M R said that UU would object to any development proposals for Burscough within the next few years due to capacity problems in the sewers and pumping stations serving the area”. Also, in another section “D R stated it would be necessary for an FRM1 form to be submitted for the requested drainage study by end of August if it was to be included within the 2009/10 funding programme”.
“These documents are better presented than the later MSfW meetings minutes. I would be grateful if you could provide copies of these Interagency Meeting minutes which I currently don’t have. It was noticeable that again Trevor attended most meeting, however, the minutes show connections to issues involving Planning staff. I would have expected that due to their importance that these minutes would also be shared and available to Planning colleagues.
“From your letter you state that you have no reason to believe that the report was deliberately kept a secret. That does not provide a convincing outcome due to the findings which clearly shows the actions that limited its circulation. An independent investigation is the only way that this can be determined, however, the issue is still the limited circulation that occurred.
“There are many compelling reasons as to why it may not have been circulated: • Impact on YTF and other potential developments planning permissions decisions • Cost of implementing for FRMA partners • Restrict income from new housing
• It raises point about what parts of the recommendations have been implemented • Increased costs and additional work for developers • Could be used against the council in potential appeals • Could be used by insurance companies against the council.
“This document was commissioned by an individual/committee in consultation with others within WLBC, also the decision to withhold circulation could have involved other FRMA partners. It is unclear where the funding came from, was there funding from other sources and was it from other Government departments. If any funding resulting from taxpayers money has been used then a full inquiry should be undertaken into: • Who requested this and who authorised the payments • Did it comply with procurement procedures • Were there formal communications with Burscough Parish Council, if not why not • What happened regarding circulation to the partners, via WLBC website and the Public etc • Why did WLBC not provided it to Burscough Parish Council when undertaking the development of the Local Neighbourhood Plan.
“You will be aware that WLBC have a “Duty of Care” towards its residents, it is also required that WLBC provide an environment that is supportive, healthy and safe. As a number of locations within the ENTEC report have continued to have repeat flooding, it is also important to understand what actions were implemented following its publication: • What action was taken to implement the various action points, some of which were immediate remedial action points • Who was aware of this ENTEC report in both WLBC and external organisations • Was Burscough Parish Council made aware or consulted at any stage, before, during or after, the publication and its implementation? If they had been aware of its contents then they would have used this in raising objections on behalf of their residents • When were other organisations made aware of the content of this document?
“A number of the locations investigated in the report have continued to have persistent problems since its publication. In not making this report available to partners and the public, WLBC has allowed flooding to cause chaos around Burscough with people having to deal with repeated flooding and damage to their premises and land.
“It was notable that a few borough councillors were given preferential information by WLBC during the local plan consultation, therefore, please can you tell me which councillors the 2010 report was informally shared with? And whose decision it was not to share it with all councillors and the reason given?
“It is also equally notable that WLBC’s ability to investigate past mistakes and wrong doing is severely hampered because the Borough Engineer in office retired some years ago and its three most senior officers accepted WLBC’s offer of voluntary redundancy last year. It is troubling that they all had to be replaced with personnel with the equal skills and WLBC hasn’t provided an explanation why they were all given such a good opportunity to leave and what the cost to the public purse was. WLBC are currently denying a resident his freedom of information legislation rights in order to keep the cost secret. However, none of those difficulties explains why WLBC hasn’t viewed emails and records from the period and questioned the fortunate early retirees.
“One last thing, you stated that a further offer of a meeting has been made [presumably to me]. I haven’t received the offer, has it been lost or are you the victim of misleading information about me within WLBC. I do not want to be misrepresented, should WLBC make a genuine offer to meet then I would accept”.
Gavin Rattray – Secretary Burscough Flooding Group