Category Archives: Flood Watch

Above And Below Ground in West Lancashire

As building work started on the new Skelmersdale town centre development, January 2020, the official photo-opportunists were there, sharp spade at the ready for the historic press pictures, cutting the first sod!

Councillor Ian Moran, Leader of West Lancashire Borough Council and portfolio holder for Regeneration, said “This is a special day for the people of Skelmersdale as building work begins to make our new town centre a reality. Over the coming months the town centre development will take shape and we can all look forward to the day when we start shopping in these stores and our children are enjoying the play area.

“I want to thank everyone at West Lancashire Borough Council, St. Modwen, Homes England and all our other partners who have helped make this happen. The scheme proves how ambitious the Council is for the economy of Skelmersdale and West Lancashire as a whole”.

Pictured at the site with the developers were Rosie Cooper MP; Councillor Ian Moran, West Lancashire Borough Council Leader; and Jacqui Sinnott-Lacey, West Lancashire Borough Council Chief Operating Officer.

But below ground

are the inadequate sewers and drains in the flooded areas of the borough. Nobody turns up for photographs, just the flooded-out victims of the appalling “so what” borough flooding policies, victims who collect the evidence of their damaged homes. It’s all to no avail. The Burscough Flooding Group seems to aggravate West Lancashire Borough Council merely by being flooded and complaining about it.

In a recent exchange the Secretary of the Burscough Flooding Group wrote in response to a long council denial of secrecy and lack of transparency in the Council “Only WLBC as our Local Planning Authority, has a specific duty to prevent development driven surface and groundwater water flooding onsite and downstream in Burscough from increasing indefinitely.

“As 2019/1182/ARM and 2020/0293/CON are a fait accompli, can you at least reassure residents now expecting increased flooding, that WLBC will discard its hard hats and rigger boots long enough to undertake the investigations requested into the serious issues raised in May 2020?”

The short answer is, and always will be, no. As with the County Council, United Utilities, and the Burscough developers, repairing the drains and sewers and stopping flooding of parts of Burscough, not to mention Ormskirk and Halsall, costs money. Developing Skelmersdale, Burscough, Halsall and green-belt land for housing produces council tax, revenue. That’s what the election manifestos will show next May. It’s disgraceful.



 

The Burscough Flood Scandal

This, below, is an annotated picture from Google Earth

It shows the location of the photo used as our header. It is just on the other side of the Railway Crossing from the oft flooded home of the photographer and is one of the main water courses taking water from Burscough.

It is the location of the restriction beneath the Railway which Network Rail refuses to address. You wouldn’t believe that it was on 4th February, 2019 when West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper said “It has taken far too long for this Jacobs flood report to come forward from Lancashire County Council, it’s been a year and a half since I was offered a copy of it at the Flood Forum meeting I held in Christ Church.

“All the county can tell us now is that the recommendations are too expensive to carry out, but very little about what they have been doing for the past two years to make any progress. “This was taxpayers’ money used to fund a very high level and detailed report and the immediate reaction suggests it was all a waste of time and money.

“I have written to Lancashire County Council and to DEFRA to ask what they plan to do now to protect my constituents from the threat of further flooding, many constituents who have already had their lives devastated through flooding in 2012 or 2015.”

On 20th July 2020 Rosie Cooper wrote to a flooded resident of Burscough about the Jacobs Report and with some correspondence from Jacobs she was sending to that resident. It stated “Thank you for reaching out to Jacobs UK and providing comments by ***** to a study we were commissioned to undertake by Lancashire County Council in Burscough. Unfortunately we cannot respond on this matter. We have however forwarded the information you have provided to Rachel Crompton the Flood Risk Manager at Lancashire County Council who is responsible for managing any consultation with local Risk Management Authorities and local communities”. Yours sincerely Tegender Chaudhary Company Secretary. 

It was in February 2018 that Lancashire County Council commissioned Jacobs UK Ltd to “undertake a Level 2 Surface Water Management Plan (SWMP) study covering the small town of Burscough within West Lancashire”. Shortly after the project started, it was put on hold for several months whilst ongoing network modelling was undertaken by United Utilities. This dataset was considered critical to the completion of the SWMP. The project started up again in November 2018, with the updated network model provided March 2019.

A Burscough resident and member of the Burscough Flooding Group affected by these flood events wrote to Rosie Cooper “My personal view, and it is based on my observations rather than the opinion of others, and was formed long before I had any flooding issues, is that “Talking is cheaper than doing”.

“I don’t believe that the Lead Flood Authority was ever meant to be successful, because if they were, then to address all the problems they identify would be prohibitively expensive. So they were set up to fail, understaffed, underfunded and under resourced. If they ever get close to resolving an issue, then it is highly likely that there will be a ‘Reorganisation’ or Members of staff will transfer or leave their post, so that the whole process has to start again.

“I don’t think, given your occupation and experience that I need to spell out the many ways that Government or Local Authorities can avoid or defer paying to get the problem sorted out. BFG have been engaging with the LLFA for over 4 years now, and as was expected when we first met, there has not been a spade in the ground, nor does it look like it will happen any time soon, however, there is no shortage of progress when it comes to Development”.

And that sums up the whole process. Development equals council tax equals huge staffing wages and pensions and sod those flooded out. 

Broken Planning Laws? Surely Not!

It might seem to West Lancashire residents that planning probity would be a given, Probity in planning is about ensuring that decisions on plan making and planning applications are undertaken, on behalf of communities, in a fair, impartial and transparent way. Not to mention legality!

In 2014 John Harrison, the then Assistant Director Planning West Lancashire Borough Council wrote “Enforcement Plan” that “West Lancashire Borough Council has a duty to investigate alleged breaches of planning control and has powers to remedy proven breaches subject to available resources. The Council views breaches of planning control very seriously. It is the Council’s policy to exercise powers appropriately and rigorously so that development takes place in accordance with the appropriate legislation, or with the planning conditions and limitations imposed on any planning permission through the development management process”.

But late in June West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper had to secure a commitment from West Lancashire Borough Council that they would investigate reports of planning breaches at Burscough Football Club’s Victoria Park.

Following concerns raised by a number of residents and Burscough Independent Supporters Association about alleged planning breaches at the ground, Rosie raised the issues with agencies including West Lancashire Borough Council.

Rosie raised concerns with Lancashire County Council and Burscough Priory about the traffic management and with Sport England and Natural England also who provided the council with advice on planning conditions related to the ground.

“Burscough FC’s Victoria Park has planning permission approved for housing development subject to an outstanding Section 106 agreement, but no work should start until the successful completion of the new football ground next to the current site. But supporters and local residents have been sceptical throughout about owner Martin Gilchrist’s motives and whether the club will end up with a ground at all.

“It is high time that the Council took a day to day interest and undertook a full investigation into the actions of Mr Gilchrist and Chequer and the work they have undertaken at Victoria Park. Local residents are watching in disgust as their local ground is wrecked while the Council appear not to take decisive action to ensure that no breaches have occurred or are occurring.

“I welcome the latest assurance from the Council that they will be investigating four potential breaches of conditions in the construction of the new ground. I have responded to them urging them to take the strongest action possible as quickly as possible. Most people will expect Mr Gilchrist to have no regard for the rules whilst anticipating the council will follow the rules to the letter while he will do as he wishes. It is time for the council to show they will not be pushed around and bullied by those who think they can make a profit whilst those who follow the rules are left miles behind.

“The conditions being investigated are 10, 17, 19 and 20 of planning application 2015/0904/FUL which relate to a travel plan, surface water and pollution prevention, works close to the bank of a ditch, and the construction environment management plan which includes measures to mitigate impacts on biodiversity”.

Today the Champion runs the story. But there is more to it, as local residents found to their horror. WLBC was told about sand and topsoil being washed into their watercourses causing further concern and threatening the safety of their homes because of flooding. 

“There is very good evidence to show that the freshly dug ground is being allowed to wash directly into the watercourse at Crabtree Lane, further threatening our homes with immediate flood, but also creating additional silt and sand to clog the watercourses and drains.

Please pay particular attention to the photos, which clearly show the sand/silt removal will be measured in tons. This is now in our watercourses. Could you please let me know how this will be addressed”?

Response from WLBC “I have reviewed the planning permission and presented the evidence to our principal planning officer who states that the filling of a watercourse would ordinarily be classed as development requiring planning permission. As the matter relates to a watercourse the Lead Flood Authority at Lancashire County Council are best placed to consider enforcement procedures. In this matter the planning impact is in relation to potential flood risk rather than other planning matters.

“It may well have been the case that the watercourse at some stage during this development had inadvertently been filled to some extent however this would appear to have been corrected.

“Ordinarily in these cases if evidence is apparent of a breach of planning control the site owner/manager will be presented with an opportunity to regularise this breach of planning control which in this instance would have been to remove whatever had filled the water course. If action is taken to remove the breach of planning, no further action is taken. If no action is taken and the breach of planning control still exists then the council would consider formal action.

“To summarise, it has been decided that there is no breach of planning control in this case at present. I have raised this matter with the Lead Flood Authority for a further assessment to be completed”.

The reality? “On Sunday morning 9th February, I was again alerted by my flood alarm. The water rose very quickly again and I had to deploy my pumps for the 3rd time in just over 6 Months. It is only a matter of time before either the pumps fail or I fail. This will lead to 6 homes here being flooded. This is an enormous responsibility to bear. My next door neighbours are very elderly and have nursing care several times a day. When their home was flooded on Boxing Day 2015, they had to leave their home and could not return for over 12 Months”.

Where will all this end? A Judicial Review? As John Harrison wrote in 2014 “The Council must operate its enforcement activities within Government guidelines and in accordance with Council policy. This means that the Council must decide whether the breach of control unacceptably affects the quality of life”. When will it do so?

 

 

 

It’s Raining And Gullies Are Blocking

When LCC Lead Flood Authority, WLBC and United Utilities sat down to discuss who should take the blame for allowing the Jacobs’ debacle be published without checking it for truth, accuracy and competence, they sank into the Burscough oft seen raw sewage.

From LCC “Blocked gullies. We are currently dealing with a high number of blocked gully reports. We have extra teams working on this, however, we are prioritising urgent cases where there is a flood risk to property or flooding across the carriageway. If you have reported a blocked gully please bear with us and we will get to it as soon as we can.

“We maintain over 300,000 roadside drains, also known as gullies, on the roads. As there are so many, we can’t service them all regularly. Very often when we respond to a call out for a blocked drain on the road, we find that the grate is just covered by wet leaves or grass, which act like a plug and stops the water flowing down it freely.

“If you notice that a gully on your street has become blocked by leaves which can be easily brushed away, without putting yourself or others at risk, brush the blockage to one side. Gather up the leaves and dispose of them in the same way you would dispose of leaves from your household gutters and drains. Clearing the leaves regularly makes sure the water can flow freely into the drain next time we get heavy rain”.

But it’s not leaves, it’s plants growing in the gullies plugging the gully grates that are evidence of simple ongoing neglect by LCC.

From LCC “If it rains a lot almost anywhere can flood” an observation for which we are truly thankful!

I Saw This On The BBC And Thought You Should See It

England’s future water supplies at “serious risk”.

Some parts of England will run out of water within the next 20 years unless “urgent action” is taken. That’s the view of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in a report on the state of water supplies. It’s calling on the government to establish a league table for water companies to pressure them into dealing with leaks. It also wants efficiency labels on domestic products like washing machines and dishwashers to be made compulsory.

Watch it here https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-53351401

It’s led to some less than impressed locals making comments, especially from our oft-flooded out Burscough friends “Strange this report on the shortage of water, while in Burscough we have a oversupply, so much that it frequently comes back up the highway drains and due to clay gardens it takes ages to penetrate the soil or evaporate. Don’t know why developers’ don’t build fresh water swimming pools as a sales feature into developments.

And “Next time I am up to my knees in floodwater, I must remind myself just how fortunate I am to be preserved from the “Jaws Of Death”.

         

Burscough’s Biggest Ever Application For Houses

Will be considered by WLBC planning committee on Thursday the 9th of July. They should have in front of them the photo of the Higgins and Crabtree Lane crossroad, but they probably won’t.

They should be aware that when the Burscough Flooding Group (BFG) last met with United Utilities (UU) and suggested they fix it, in case it led to a train derailment in winter, UU argued that the water wasn’t all theirs!

Does that futile response mean UU can disregard flooding by saying “Prove it’s ours”. It’s infantile. But that’s UU.

Members must declare the existence of any party whip, and the nature of it. The question of it is futile too, because nobody will admit to being whipped. This is the usual farce enacted at these meetings.

APPLICATION NO. 2019/1182/ARM LOCATION Site Of Former Yew Tree Farm Liverpool Road South Burscough Lancashire. This is a Reserved Matters application for the erection of 267 dwellings. Outline planning permission has previously been granted for residential development on this site, therefore the principle is considered to be acceptable. I consider the layout, scale, proportions and design of the proposed dwellings to be acceptable and the scheme would not adversely impact on neighbouring amenity of surrounding properties. I am also satisfied that the scheme will not have a significant impact on highway safety and adequate parking will be provided. I consider that sufficient interface distances have been achieved in order to protect neighbouring residential amenity. The requisite level of affordable housing has been provided on this phase and drainage proposals are in accordance with the overall strategy for the wider site. In my view the proposal complies with the relevant policies in the NPPF, the Local Plan, the Burscough Parish Neighbourhood Plan and the Yew Tree Farm Masterplan. RECOMMENDATION: APPROVE with conditions

CONSULTEE RESPONSES 6.1 United Utilities (25/03/2020 and 09/03/2020) – no objection subject to condition. 6.2 Lead Local Flood Authority (11/05/2020, 07/05/2020, 10/02/2020 and 18/06/2020) – no objection. 6.3 LCC Highways (16/04/2020 and 06/04/2020) – no objection. 6.4 Merseyside Environmental Advisory Service (MEAS) (27/02/2020 and 17/01/2020) – no objection.

Burscough Town Council has objected to the application on the basis of the following: The Jacobs Report was received at County Council in November 2019 followed shortly by this application in December 2019. This proposal is possibly the largest housing development in Burscough and the information contained in the report is vital for consideration of this application. Crabtree Lane has been subjected to a further 3 maybe 4 flooding events since the 2015 event, this being well documented. ln the July 2019 floods in that area possible evidence has arisen of surface water from YTF being a contributory factor. Both the NPPF and the recently adopted Burscough Neighbourhood Plan policies say that development should not add to existing problems. There is a big question mark with regard to Crabtree Lane.

After this development is passed, smug council members will look on the vast ongoing income from council tax as a price worth paying. How many of them live with raw sewage entering their homes in the dead of night?

As The Rain Lashes Down Today Burscough Will Flood By Neglect

We might recall the government funded new repair and renew grant schemes, to provide grants of up to £5,000 to home owners, businesses and communities that were flooded. The grants were to implement flood resistance and resilience measures to minimise the impact of any future floods. They would not provide funding support for general repairs.  

In fact some such grants were made to some residents of Burscough.

Of course much of this could and should be avoided if United Utilities provided what the Water Industry Act 1991 (the “1991 Act”) requires them to do. By its own admission in published High Court papers, UU wrote

“The starting point for considering UU’s powers under the 1991 Act are the duties which those powers are provided to serve. UU’s general duty is provided under section 94 of the 1991 Act, and includes a duty not just to operate a sewerage system, but to improve and extend it and to maintain the sewers:

“(1) It shall be the duty of every sewerage undertaker— (a) to provide, improve and extend such a system of public sewers (whether inside its area or elsewhere) and so to cleanse and maintain those sewers and any lateral drains which belong to or vest in the undertaker as to ensure that that area is and continues to be effectually drained; and (b) to make provision for the emptying of those sewers and such further provision (whether inside its area or elsewhere) as is necessary from time to time for effectually dealing, by means of sewage disposal works or otherwise, with the contents of those sewers.”

“UU has an obligation to drain its areas, no matter what the population of that area or the rate of growth of that population. In order to conduct its operations and meet its regulatory requirements, UU is required to invest into building new, and maintaining existing, infrastructure sufficient for it to meet the necessary regulatory standards”.

UU actually stated that to be so in the High Court case, which it won. By what sleight of hand is UU, with the connivance of WLBC and LCC, not carrying out its Water Industry Act 1991 duties in Burscough?

As one Burscough resident wrote, to WLBC “I am left unconvinced that WLBC are prepared to give sufficient weight or consideration to the concerns of Burscough Residents, and in particular those threatened with the increased frequency and severity of flood when Planning issues are considered. It is not too difficult for anyone to realise and conclude that WLBC will not permit anything to come between them and the revenue, (which is counted in the many £millions) they are rewarded with as development progresses through Burscough.

“Your response highlights yet again, the refusal to accept responsibility for the decisions made in relation to flooding matters, I have yet to see in amongst the many replies from you the words “Yes, that is our responsibility, we will deal with it”. Just about every point raised is answered with deflecting the issue to someone else, such as United Utilities or the Environment Agency or The LLFA. You call yourself “Partners”, in my book, that means sharing responsibility and “Working closely with our Partners” does not mean blaming them or saying it has nothing to do with you so “it is not our problem”.

“The questions I asked in the e-mail were in general not related to the information provided by other parties, but were mainly based upon how WLBC views the validity of the content and processes it. The e-mail is focussed on just what level of verification of accuracy it exercises to ensure that all documentary evidence used in Planning Applications is “Sound”. This is an entirely reasonable expectation of all Residents, and at this moment in time, given your responses, you appear to have failed with astounding regularity.

“I would ask you to look at the questions I asked again, this time, please look at what WLBC’s position is rather than dismiss them as someone else’s problem.
“Your last paragraph, if I am reading it right, seems to indicate that you find addressing the concerns of flood victims rather tiresome, well it may be for you, but I can assure you it is nowhere near as tiresome as spending months repairing the damage caused by flood or enduring the anxiety experienced every time there is a storm and wondering whether it is safe to go to bed as I did yet again last night”.

The ignorance of WLBC is shown by the inclusion of this paragraph to the resident, case 2020/289 dated 17 June 2020 “If you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request, you have the right to ask for an internal review. Internal review requests should be submitted within two months of the date of receipt of the response to your original letter and should be addressed to: John Harrison, Assistant Director Planning, 52 Derby Street, Ormskirk, L39 3NU”.

Perhaps John Harrison is back at work in WLBC after taking voluntary redundancy of £90,616 some time ago?

Are You Watching For Flooding And Foul Sewage?

Burscough Town Council

has repeatedly voiced concerns that both surface water and foul networks are under-capacity, and that new development may exacerbate existing flooding and may cause further flooding. But people with power are doing nothing about it.

United Utilities manage foul drainage and it is their responsibility to ensure that there is adequate capacity. The Town Council is not aware of any significant investment planned for Burscough’s foul drainage network, despite recurrent surcharges of foul sewage onto our streets.

             

Burscough Town Council is delighted to work with Burscough Flood Group, an independent group of residents who have researched flooding in Burscough and who have compiled a comprehensive, evidence based register of incidents of flooding in Burscough.

Today In Parliament-Flooding

Of interest to Burscough And Halsall

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) Labour to ask the Prime Minister

“The Prime Minister referred to support for local authorities. The Rhondda, during this period, has had three very severe bouts of flooding, including last week. Many homes have lost absolutely everything because they have no insurance. The local authority now faces a bill of somewhere in the region of £67 million to repair culverts, drains, pumping stations and gullies, and replace many bridges. We also have a landslide from an old coal tip, which is in danger of doing very significant damage if we cannot remove the 60,000 tonnes of earth. That is still a Westminster responsibility. The Prime Minister may not have the answer now, but will he please make sure we get the £2.5 million very swiftly so that we can do that work quickly? We do not want another Aberfan”.

The Prime Minister replied

“The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right, and I am aware of those risks. We are working with Mark Drakeford and the Welsh Government on those problems. As he knows, we are putting £4 billion into flood defences. If we face real problems of unemployment, no doubt we will, getting to work on putting in better flood defences for the future will be an important way of driving job creation”.