Category Archives: Flood Watch

Flooded In Town Green, Again!

Once again, some heavy rain, residents expect to have a highways anti-flooding infrastructure suitable for modern use.

There isn’t one here, nor has there been one for years. As ever, flood water running down gutter grids totally blocked in Parrs Lane, onto Prescot Road, gathering at the Town Green Lane junction and off past the school to flood the Aughton Surgery entrance. It will be a miracle if any child has dry feet in the local school today!

It’s appalling. We have five WLBC councillors and one LCC councillor. Collectively they cost us £57,772 for the two Aughton WLBC wards and one LCC division. All five are invisible, useless to council tax payers, as proved by the images we show of today compared with those of up to ten years ago.

Four WLBC Aughton councillors receive the basic £4,842 annual allowance

One WLBC Aughton councillor, D Westley, receives an extra £3,749 as “Leader of the Opposition”! Or is that “rabble”?

One WLBC Aughton councillor, O’Toole, receives further allowances for LCC and Lancashire Combined Fire Authority posts, in all £35,015.

Elderly and disabled people have to negotiate the above flooded pavement at the local surgery and have done so for years of sheer neglect by any and all Aughton councillors, where were they today, and last year, and before that?

And at the main road junction, we wait for any appearance of flood warning signs, nowhere in sight. 

All the above pictures taken at 9.30am today. No local councillors to pose for us, just no interest, but what do we expect? What value do we receive from our £57,772 investment in representation? And when and if there is a borough reduction of one third of Aughton councillors, will we be rid of these current useless office holders, perhaps a new independent party free from this lot? We live in hope! 

Flooding And Local Transport Issues

Our Halsall reporter tells us

“Rumours circulating on social media stating that Halsall International Airport has some standing water issues on its runways after Storm Dennis have been greatly exaggerated, according to the WLBC statement that “After conducting thorough and rigorous desktop studies, our investigations concluded there are no surface water problems in this region” Our Drainage expert has assured us there is no reason for concern”. Judge for yourselves?

And over in Burscough our reporter there told us “RNAS Ringtail Airfield is operating a full scheduled submarine service to check the depth of water there and has found no unusual issues thanks to the innovative drainage solutions brought to you by United Utilities, WLBC, and the Environment Agency working together. “There’s no need to publish the Jacobs Report, that’s if it can be found, or set up an IDB as we are ensuring properties and businesses alike are kept well and truly high and dry in Burscough”.

Local bus firms have been running additional services thanks entirely to the recent investment by Lancashire County Council into the latest “eco friendly” amphibious coaches running throughout our outlying villages and towns. “If we have any road flooding issues, the abundance of potholes easily accepts much of the additional surface water that hasn’t drained off our road network!” a Highways spokesman said.

Those who are able to afford a fully electric vehicle can use one of the many free charging points in and around the borough, although WLBC said “We are considering how the Tesla Charging Centre received planning permission for it to be in a field susceptible to flooding. We don’t do cock-ups, but this seems unusual!”. They assured us “There won’t be any “charges” for cars stranded there”.

Conversations With A Dinosaur Borough Council Part 3

Our trilogy on flooding in Burscough concludes with the thoughts of any reasonable flooded out resident of West Lancashire

a) that by living in “flatter Burscough” rather than in “steeper Parbold and Appley Bridge” and that b) the Burscough surface water drainage infrastructure is less easily understood than rapid surface water run-off in Parbold and Appley Bridge which was resolved by use of Environment Agency “Grant in Aid”, then residents of Burscough have been, and will continue to be, discriminated against by WLBC.

Readers might conclude that measures for protecting a total of 162 steeper located residential properties from internal flooding has received activity not bestowed on Burscough despite the existence of the almost 10 year old “Burscough Flood Studies Investigation”. Of course, the end of the Burscough nightmare is far from over.

WLBC Principal Engineer 8 January 2020 “I am glad you found the ‘Planning Applications – Drainage, Flood Risk and Sustainability’ guidance of use. The guidance is due to be revised this year and I hope to be able to further heighten awareness of SuDS and related benefits. The guidance will hopefully encourage owners of all developments to recognise the need to do more, which is also the purpose of the forthcoming of the Sewers for Adoption 8th Edition (SFA8). I understand that 60% of Industry professionals think that SFA8 will be very important in ensuring flood resilience in the UK. This document is a step closer to the adoption of SuDS which I certainly welcome as do many LLFAs across the country. I am hoping that in England we will soon follow the example of Wales and introduce SuDS Approval Boards and have tighter control over developers with regard to sustainable drainage and mitigation of flood risk.

“I am sorry that you feel that West Lancashire Borough Council (WLBC) is trying to absolve itself of all responsibility. In recent years WLBC has worked hard to resolve pressing flooding issues in Parbold and Appley Bridge where the surrounding topography is steeper resulting in rapid surface water runoff which has flooded large areas of residential property in the past. The measures needed to resolve the flooding issues in Parbold and Appley Bridge followed studies commissioned by WLBC using funding obtained through ‘Grant in Aid’, which is managed by the EA. The schemes were designed to protect 122 houses in Parbold and 40 houses in Appley Bridge respectively, from internal flooding. In Burscough the area is much flatter and the surface water drainage infrastructure is less easily understood. To gain some understanding of the surface water infrastructure funding was again secured to enable WLBC to procure the ‘Burscough Flood Studies Investigation (July 2010), often referred to as the ‘secret’ report. Due to a number of factors, including the enactment of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010, the findings of that report were not acted upon at that time. Nonetheless, that report now informs the LLFAs eagerly awaited Surface Water Management Plan for Burscough.

“Flatter catchments, such as Burscough, usually result in slower flows through the various drainage systems that in turn leads to increased silt deposition, particularly in open watercourses. Wherever a watercourse is in council ownership I try to ensure that WLBC fulfils its responsibilities as a riparian owner. I am currently reassessing the maintenance regime of drainage assets in WLBC’s ownership, and an important part of that process is to know where the culverts are located. As I am sure you are aware not all owners of such assets keep a record of where their culverts are located and I feel that within Burscough there are more to find. So, I am sure you will agree that it is difficult to understand how the surface water runoff from one part Burscough impacts on another. Thus, in answer to your question relating to the “light brown water” I agree that it is not possible to exclude the Yew Tree Farm Site as the source of this flood water, but I don’t think it is possible to exclude other areas upstream of Crabtree Lane either.

“Thank you for your concern regarding my current workload. To the large part any drainage issues raised internally, by the general public or councillors are directed to me. I am also the main point of contact for the various RMAs to contact in relation to flooding and coastal matters. I have also contributed to Local Planning Policy as well as the council’s Strategic Flood Risk Assessments Levels 1 and 2 in relation to sustainable drainage and flood risk. Other individuals within the council do have some knowledge of drainage systems, but more often than not they approach me for advice.

“I have gained considerable local knowledge of various surface water catchments across West Lancashire in the four years I have been at WLBC. I am keen to help wherever I can as various flood action groups would testify. However, I am yet to meet with the BFG despite confirming that I will be open and honest. As you know the LLFA is well versed in producing SWMPs and is a statutory consultee in relation to major developments. I for my part have extensive drainage expertise and am consulted on both minor and major developments in relation to flood risk. Therefore, may I suggest that your group invite both the LLFA and myself to BFG meetings to discuss the problems associated with the existing drainage systems in Burscough with a view to reaching a common consensus, and work together in securing funding for practicable improvements”.

BFG Response 29 January 2020 “Actions speak louder than words. WLBC have no doubt done many things in other areas, but you seem to be acknowledging that WLBC have achieved nothing in Burscough. WLBC was aware of the lack of sewer network capacity in Burscough in 2008, because UU told it straight many times, yet WLBC is still racing ahead with Burscough’s expansion after witnessing UU’s failure to get funding in 2015.

“We won’t ever stop communicating with WLBC, however, in order to meet our terms and have a technical meeting with us, you should acknowledge that you had met with BFG at UU’s public meeting at the Briars Hall on the 5th June 2018. You sat in the audience and refused to answer questions about flooding. You did provide support to LCC and UU and clearly stated that WLBC would not accept Burscough Flood Record Report. As did UU and LCC. The EA didn’t attend. No reasons were given for not using our report and none could be extracted by BPC Councillors or BFG.

“We now meet with LCC because they rescinded their statement. WLBC haven’t. In addition, WLBC are currently treating everyone except myself, because I won back my FOI rights at a GRC Tribunal, as though they are vexatious and denying them FOI rights to ask questions about flooding and drainage in Burscough.

“We would need to see WLBC rescind your public statement; and allow everyone else in the world but me their legal FOI rights to ask about flooding and drainage in Burscough”.

WLBC Principal Engineer response same day “I did attend the meeting you refer to but I did not formally meet with the BFG as I was not a member of the team presenting the meeting. As I recall it was queried by a member of the audience why neither the EA and WLBC were not present. I felt the need to make my presence known and made it clear that I was observing the proceedings and that I would not comment on behalf of the planning authority on any planning matters. Nor do I recall refusing to answer questions about flooding, it is my area of expertise and I would have answered any queries directed at me. Furthermore, I do not recall ever saying that WLBC would not accept Burscough Flood Record Report. In fact any information I have received from the BFG before and after the meeting has been processed through to the LLFA.

“I do remember discussion about the collation of information by the BFG and did support the view that the information should be passed to UU and the LLFA in the first instance, during the flooding incident if at all possible. This would then allow timely investigation of flooding mechanisms. As you will see from a weblink to Council Meetings previously provided to the BFG, WLBC has a policy not undertake flood investigation unless it relates to WLBC owned land, or planning enforcement issues. Notwithstanding, I have made it known on a number of occasions that I am willing to assist the BFG by providing the benefit of my drainage expertise.

“In closing, I am not going to agree to rescind a public statement I don’t recall making, but am willing to be of continuing assistance to the BFG and others in drainage and flood risk related matters”.

BFG same day “I am sorry you do not recollect everything that happened during the meeting. Are WLBC going to a rescind their blanket denial of FOI for information about flooding and drainage in Burscough, as that would be of great assistance?”

WLBC Head of Growth and Development Services 12 February 2020 “I have been passed your email below to Dave Owens, to address your latest query “Are WLBC going to rescind their blanket denial of FOI for information about flooding and drainage in Burscough, as that would be of great assistance?”

“As far as I am aware this Council has never issued a “blanket denial of FOI for information about flooding and drainage in Burscough”, and so there is no such “blanket denial” to rescind.

“You may be referring to the fact that the Council considered you vexatious due to the number of overlapping FOI/EIR requests that you made over time regarding flooding and drainage in Burscough. As you are aware, the First Tier Tribunal of the General Regulatory Chamber found in your favour in relation to Appeal Reference EA/2018/0219, and so the Council provided you with the information you had requested related to that appeal. As such, you are able to make appropriate information requests under FOI or EIR legislation, so long as you follow the Tribunal’s advice on making such requests, as set out in paragraph 62 of their judgement:

“Finally, we think that  John Crawford would do well to think carefully before having further recourse to the freedom of information legislation. We would suggest that before any decision to present a further request for information he should ask himself in particular the following questions. (a) Does the proposed request repeat, or overlap (to any extent) with, any previous request? (b) Is the information reasonably necessary for the purposes of furthering any legitimate goal or objective? (c) IS the information available from some other source? (d) Does the proposed request for any other reason expose him to a real risk of being legitimately accused of a misuse of the freedom of information provisions? (e) Even if he is satisfied that the proposed request is proper in principle can it be improved by (i) making it more concise and/or (ii) narrowing its scope and/or (iii) clarifying the language in which it is couched?” I hope that this is helpful”.

BFG Response same day “Thank you for your email dated 12 February 2020. The judgement of the first tier tribunal to allow my appeal was unanimous and in paragraph 58 of its judgment, it found WLBC were making a blanket denial of FOI, “we are troubled by the logic of the Council’s case, which it does not shrink from expressing in plain language, that the door must now be closed on any further request for information related to flooding risk in and around Burscough. That logic runs counter to the entire spirit of the freedom of information legislation. It seeks to deprive Mr Rattray and, by extension, other concerned individuals who might be seen as associated with him, apparently for ever, of an important constitutional right to seek information in order to hold a public body to account on a matter of obvious public significance.”

“WLBC’s troubling logic denied John Crawford an FOI in November 2017. It incorrectly asserted that he was a member of BFG to the Information Commissioner; and it incorrectly asserted that John Crawford was acting for me after WLBC had incorrectly asserted I was vexatious in October 2017.

“As you must be aware WLBC is continuing to deny John Crawford his November 2017 FOI. Therefore, denying him his right to ask about flooding and drainage in Burscough. As Council are still applying the same troubled logic identified by the judges, because WLBC have shown no contrition and publicised no improvements. I have to ask what evidence do WLBC have that they won’t be applying their troubling logic indefinitely to any individual, because they can, thereby leaving residents unable to seek the information they need to take WLBC to account.

“Finally, John Crawford wrote to Kim Webber on the 8th July asking for his FOI again and WLBC responded to say that his case was closed. This is a further confirmation that WLBC, even though it lost the appeal, is still depriving a concerned individual who might be seen as associated with me, apparently forever, of the right to FOI related to flooding risk in and around Burscough. AKA a blanket denial”.

Interesting to find also that UU payments include “Rainwater removal-The cost of taking away rainwater that drains from your home and the public highway. If your rainwater doesn’t drain to the sewer you can claim a reduction at UU Utilities”. Fill your boots?

Conversations With A Dinosaur Borough Council Part 2

As shown above, there was a Burscough Flood Studies Investigation in 2010.

From a probably un-flooded WLBC Officer “There seems to be some confusion regarding the responsibilities that WLBC have in regard to land drainage and flooding. I have therefore attempted to clarify matters in the opening paragraphs before answering your queries from email (below) dated

“As you are aware WLBC is a risk management authority (RMA) as defined in the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 and as such WLBC has a duty to manage flood risk from ordinary watercourses (not watercourses which have been designated ‘main river’). WLBC manage this risk by working with the lead local flood authority and other RMAs to take flood risk into account when making decisions on development. To this end I would refer you to the attached WLBC guidance notes relating to drainage, flood risk and sustainability. The following link can also be used to gain access to a downloadable copy of the current WLBC guidance notes relating to drainage, flood risk and sustainability:
http://www.westlancs.gov.uk/planning…..registration-and-validation.aspx

“With regard to other responsibilities that WLBC have in regard to land drainage and flooding please follow the following link to the WLBC publically accessible website to see the Members Update 2016/17 Issue: 2, the subject of which inter alia is Land Drainage / Flooding – The Future Approach:
https://democracy.westlancs.gov.uk/documents/g1532/Public%20reports%20pack%2013th-Oct-16%20Corporate%20and%20Environmental%20Overview%20Scrutiny%20Members%20Update.pdf?T=10

“Referring to the above document my role in the main, is restricted to offering technical guidance and advice on land drainage matters. With this in mind I hope you will appreciate that my responses below are not meant to be unhelpful in any way.

Our often flooded resident replied

“Thank you for taking the time to respond to me regarding our Drainage System.

I have taken the time to read the attached file; (PLANNING APPLICATIONS – DRAINAGE, FLOOD RISK AND SUSTAINABILITY). It has been helpful, and having read it I recognise many of the terms regularly used by those concerned with flooding issues so I now have a better understanding of the context of those terms, so thank you. My previous e-mail was mainly focussed on 3 issues.

“The first being the manner in which facts appeared to have been distorted by some in important positions to deflect blame from themselves and put it onto a farmer who had already lost thousands of pounds worth of crops, when all he was doing (and it was lawful to do so) was preserving his livelihood. It is shameful how some with influential positions can sit so comfortably with deceit.

“The second issue relates to the Boathouse Sluice and the Ring Ditch. You are right, they are classed as a Main River. and the maintenance from the information I have is that they are maintained by the Environment Agency and the Wildfowl and Wetlands trust respectively. I have had recent correspondence with the Lead Flood Authority on the matter, and it would appear that they are not able to hold the Environment Agency to account. However, I think I will have to get back to them regarding the Ring Ditch issue.

“Having said that, regardless of who is held to account, this does form a vital part of Burscough’s drainage, and I am sure that West Lancashire Borough Council cannot absolve itself of all responsibility when it comes to ensuring that our drainage system remains safe and unobstructed, as together with other Agencies whom you would claim to work closely with as “Partners”, if a problem has been identified and has been brought to the attention of one of the Authorities, then I am not sure that simply stating “it is not our responsibility” is a suitable or advisable response to make.

“You are at the moment the only individual within West Lancashire Borough Council with whom I am in contact, and I am conscious that you would have many other pressing matters to deal with. With this in mind, I would like to ensure that the issues relating to the failures in the Drainage System are well documented together with WLBC’s action to resolve them. If there is another Department or Individual who my enquiries should be directed to then if you could please let me know in order to reduce the workload on yourself.

“The third matter related to the “Light brown water” coming from the direction of the Yew Tree Farm Site. Your response indicates that no enquiries have been made by WLBC. Would it be fair then to say, that it is not possible to exclude the Yew Tree Farm Site as the source of this flood water?”

Conversations With A Dinosaur Borough Council, Part 1

In August last, and being concerned that Burscough suffers so much flooding that comes into the “so what” category of the West Lancashire Borough Council, a resident described by email to WLBC the problems shown within the “Boathouse Sluice/Certificate of Lawfulness 2019/0608/LDP” issue.

He wrote about a farmer being advised by the Environment Agency that it “would not be best practice and no one would have any right to drain ditches without consent”. The police could become involved! This “mind-blowing” advice was accepted by the farmer who accepted that he will need to find alternative ways of ensuring his crops are not destroyed because of the chronic failure of maintenance at the Boathouse Sluice.

“It should be pointed out that a local farmer has cleared this part of the Sluice for over 30 years “Free of charge” and “as far as I was aware, that all he intended to do was to get the job done because it had not been done for 2 years and the Boathouse Sluice was completely choked up, threatening crops and homes as far back as my home and on Orrell Lane as the video and photographic evidence I hold will clearly show”.

“I am aware this has been a contentious issue. A meeting with the police was organised 2 years ago because of problems as a consequence of flood water not being able to be cleared as it should through WWT. I am led to believe that Natural England attended, and an agreement was made that The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust would have the Watercourse cleared every 12 months and the silt removed every 2 years. The Wildlife and Wetlands Trust have failed to honour this agreement as can clearly be seen from Google Earth.

“Around 2 months ago, the farmer came to me complaining that the Boathouse Sluice had not been cleared as had been agreed, and his field of 15 acres was waterlogged and other fields were unable to be drained effectively. I spoke with the Police Officer concerned and asked her for a copy of the agreement and any record she had of the meeting. She assured me that she would make contact with Natural England to get a copy of anything they held in relation to the meeting and would let me know. She has not been back in touch.

“I understand that the farmer met with the Officer concerned in recent weeks and as a consequence was told further enquiries would be made. My understanding is that the member of staff at the wildfowl trust has been “unavailable”. I only have this from one source so this may be inaccurate.

“Since having been flooded myself I have taken an interest in flooding matters and am still in the process of trying to understand how the whole system should work and more importantly why it is regularly failing. I have paid attention to the view from Google Earth which I believe was taken in the height of last summer, just over 12 months ago. The views show that the Sluice was completely overgrown with vegetation then and had not been cleared since so this would mean that a full12 months further growth would have made matters even worse..

“I have written assurances from The Environment Agency and Martin Mere Wildfowl Trust that the Boathouse sluice is cleared and that the activities at Martin Mere have no effect upstream. I am not confident that these assurances accurately reflect the facts.

“I received a telephone call to let me know that someone had been to the Boathouse Sluice and cut the tops of the Reeds back and part of the Sluice was now visible, this presented a good opportunity to highlight the discrepancies between what has been written and the visible evidence.

“I will clarify that the advice given by the Environment Agency regarding clearing of ditches without permission should not happen again, has been communicated to the individual who provided the information about the clearing. I would also like to stress, on a personal basis as well as someone gathering information regarding flooding issues that no person should step outside of the Law. A local farmer has disclosed his involvement to the Environment Agency who have dealt with this by way of “Advice”.

“As regards my gathering of evidence, I will take advice on that. My personal opinion when given the information, is that I should record it for the benefit of Burscough Residents and until convinced otherwise that will remain my position on the subject, as to decline the opportunity to gather information would be similar to telling all Journalists Not to visit a crime scene.

“I do not believe I would be serving the best interests of the Public of Burscough by withholding this information from them”.

Nor do we, and we will publish details of the ensuing saga of the Dinosaur Borough Council for the benefit of the public.