Category Archives: Flood Watch

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

The House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has been meeting for a Flooding Inquiry. The Summary and objective state “Recent events have brought the challenges of managing flood risk back to national attention, and climate change means these events are likely to become more frequent. Building on the previous Committee’s interim report on coastal flooding and adaptation to climate change, this inquiry would focus on the Government’s approach to managing the risk of inland flooding in England”.

Following the event the Secretary of the Burscough Flooding Group (Burscough’s FLAG) Gavin Rattray wrote to the Committee.

Ref: EFRAC Meeting 1st September 2020

Dear EFRAC Committee and Innes Thomson

Having heard Innes Thomson say (approximately fifteen minutes into the meeting), “Local politics was adding an effect on the content of S19 reports”, I thought it was very important to express my sincere thanks for raising the issue and let the committee know that it was exactly the experience Burscough’s FLAG (Burscough Flooding Group) experienced in 2016, when dealing with Lancashire County Council (LCC). However, local politics having an effect on S19 reports is the tip of a considerable iceberg.

Following the widespread Boxing Day flooding in 2015, LCC, the Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA) created an S19 report for its area, which painted a false picture of flooding in Burscough. The picture was false because our local authorities have been very *poor at collecting and keeping flooding information for a long time. In addition, LCC refused to accept flooding evidence provided by Burscough Flooding Group collected from local residents; and when that became a controversial public issue, LCC councillors voted in council to support that decision.

Our information was a table of flooding events, causes and photographs which showed extremely widespread flooding had occurred in Burscough, whereas their S19 report indicated very few localised flooding problems and completely failed to mention overwhelmed/surcharging sewers which were (and still are) common and widespread.

In addition, if the experiences in Burscough are normal for the country then the committee needs to consider that local politics also affects flooding/drainage reports provided to local authorities. For example LCC denied Burscough Flooding Group and the public, oversight of the scope and production of the 2020 Jacobs Surface Water Management Plan (SWMP) for Burscough. LCC is also currently keeping the changes that the Flood Risk Management Authorities (FRMA) made to the Jacobs SWMP secret by denying a local resident, John Crawford, his Freedom Of Information (FOI) rights. The FRMA set the scope for Jacobs and it inexplicably excluded the main downstream areas, with critical drainage problems, including Crabtree Lane in Burscough where homes have been flooded four times in the last ten years (including this summer) .

Another example of local politics affecting reports is, in 2015 we obtained a copy, through FOI to LCC, of a 2010 independent report on Burscough’s flooding problems produced for West Lancashire Borough Council (WLBC). The report had been kept secret by WLBC, the Local Planning Authority (LPA), and our councillors had no knowledge of it for five years. Had the report been placed into the evidence base for the 2012 local plan, it could have changed the outcome.

Local politics means that, with the exception of the Environment Agency, the FRMA have all publicly refused to accept flooding information provided by Burscough Flooding Group.

Local politics means there is no public oversight of Making Space for Water Meetings. The FRMA meet in private without agendas, recordings or taking minutes to prevent the content of their discussions from being accessed using FOI legislation.

Local politics means drainage/flooding matters on anything but small sites in Burscough are reserved planning matters. The decision making process on reserved matters usually allows developments to proceed which increase downstream flood risk. In some cases the flood risk and drainage aspects of the planning applications conflict with NPPF, the Burscough Neighbourhood Plan, the Local Plan and (in the case of the strategic development site) the design significantly differs to the publicly agreed Masterplan, all again without explanation. The reserved decision is always publicly unscheduled and made in private without minutes or notes.

Local politics meant that from October 2017 until May 2019 myself, the FLAG and anyone, including MP Rosie Cooper, who asked WLBC about drainage or flooding in Burscough under FOI legislation, was classed as vexatious. This was unanimously overturned by a First Tier Tribunal (GRC) Information Rights on the 9th May Appeal Ref: EA/2018/0219 attached. Despite at least two requests from the local press to WLBC no explanation has ever been provided why our FOI rights were denied for 18 months.

Footnote: *Burscough’s FLAG consists of five Burscough residents who are nearly all flood victims. We were set up by Burscough Parish Council (now Burscough Town Council) to collect flooding data from all sources, because of perceived under-reporting by the authorities and United Utilities. Our work (as unpaid amateurs) culminated in Burscough Flood Records Report attached (first published in 2016).

I understand that you can’t help with a specific complaint because that would be impracticable. However, I have sent the same email to MP Rosie Cooper and will be publishing it locally on forums in order to raise public awareness of the issues.

Yours sincerely, Gavin Rattray – Secretary Burscough Flooding Group (Burscough’s FLAG)

 

Who Is At Fault For Local Flooding?

The other day, in respect of local flooding, we wrote

“Dear Rosie, you are up against a brick wall of official complacency, official ignorance, officials who couldn’t care less, official dereliction of duty, commercial interests, shareholders’ come first and the public taxpayers last. You can’t win. Simple! The floods will appear year after year in Aughton, Burscough, Halsall, and all over West Lancashire and you won’t find anyone, elected or paid, who gives a damn! You’ve met them, they’ve ignored you, and they always will. If you think LCC and UU are remotely interested, just ask the Burscough Flooding Group for a view of the passing the buck/blame game!”.

  Of course, we should have mentioned Hurlston Brook. Flooding there has been “Significant” to quote Jacobs who are paid with council tax we pay to LCC to study these events “The area has suffered from flooding on numerous occasions over the last 20 years, with the most significant flood events occurring in 2012 and 2015”.

“Hurlston Brook is designated a Main River and acts as a ‘trunk drain’ into which large networks of surface water and land drains discharge. This includes several Ordinary Watercourses, which are culverted beneath the town. The river has an extensive floodplain and has the potential to flood large numbers of residential properties. In addition, the culverted watercourses represent a potential risk of flooding as a result of blockage or limited capacity, resulting in surcharging”.

“A methodology known as the ‘property footprint’ approach was adopted to count properties where the building footprint intersects with the modelled flood extents. The average depth of flooding to the property was extracted for a range of modelled flood events for both the Do Nothing and Do Minimum scenarios”...known far and wide as the “buck-passing scenario”.

And of course we had the Crabtree Lane Burscough event leading to the disgusting flooding of one particular private property among many there.

Having been publicised on the Burscough Flooding Group Facebook, this response, below, was received.

“This resonated with me so much, I live in Ormskirk and we flooded in 2015, and we were out of our home for 6 months, the area where I live has flooded twice since, but luckily we were home and were able to deploy flood barriers etc, I can well understand your anger and frustration especially with the local authority whose only action seems to be to blame United Utilities and the Environment Agency, who in turn then blame the council. I expect when WLBC have built their new Ormskirk Leisure Centre on fields and parkland which is used when Hurlston Brook runs high to take the excess water, things will get much worse here. I wish you good luck my friend and hope these agencies get a conscience and some backbone and admit there is a problem”.

It has to be said, re-read our first paragraph. And then read what Jacobs concluded for Hurlston Brook “It is recommended that a wider, co-ordinated approach to managing the catchment be developed with emphasis on partnering with the other key stakeholder bodies, most notably United Utilities and developers known by LCC to be seeking opportunities in Ormskirk. The scope of this should extend to examining refurbishment and regeneration of the existing drainage network and consideration of future development needs. The outcomes of this study can be used to understand the key risk areas and flooding mechanisms so that appropriate decisions on planning and future development can reduce the number of properties at risk”.

And we simply ask again, where is there any conscience and backbone among the jobsworths who sit in high places watching and buck passing while homes and schools are ruined? 

Aughton Headteacher Supported By Evidence Of Flooding

In The Champion today

we read about Aughton Town Green Primary School being let down by Lancashire County Council over flooding issues. And, as it happens, the heavens opened and the floods duly arrived, as if on cue! And the “river of water” rose and the Head Teacher Nick Huxley has another stick to beat LCC with.

These are the scenes at the school today as parents arrived to collect children,

It’s an appalling indictment of the “local drainage networks never designed to cope with heavy and sustained rainfall events” as the Flood Risk Manager for LCC stated. But problems “have been found” and the “recent flooding is due to a bigger issue with capacity of local drainage systems”.

Really? Has it ever flooded as much as this before? Isn’t it a case of neglect by LCC of the local drainage system? Probably!

Network Rail Publicly Pledged To Clear Crabtree Lane Drainage Ditches In 2019

The Champion ● Wednesday 28 August 2019 “following recent flooding incident”.

“Network Rail has pledged to clear some of the drainage ditches which it is responsible for near to Crabtree Lane in Burscough after recent heavy rainfall led to flooding in the area. However, the company says that other parts of the drainage system, which could also have been contributory factors in floods, may also need attention.

“The Champion recently told how pensioner Bernie Webster, who lives in Crabtree Lane, had saved his own and neighbours’ properties from more flooding misery using pumps which he had bought following the Boxing Day floods of 2015. The 65-year-old, who suffers from asthma, used three electronic automatic pumps and an industrial-size diesel generator pump to shift water from the homes during heavy downpours last month.

“Bernie’s neighbour Peter Curl contacted the Champion to say it was “absolutely shameful” that they had to rely on a pensioner to save them while the local authorities appeared to do nothing more than talk about the issues. He said Bernie’s pump allowed the water to bypass “known blockages” in the drainage system which, he claimed “Network Rail refuse to address”. The rail company owns two culverts that run underneath the nearby railway line.

“Network Rail has confirmed that it has inspected its culverts and that its drainage ditches are in need of clearing but suggests that drainage ditches belonging to other authorities may also need attention . Meanwhile, Lancashire County Council, as the lead local flood authority, has said that it has commissioned a report into the causes of flooding in the area which should be reporting its initial findings soon.

“A Network Rail spokesperson said “We have recently inspected the culverts on our land beside the railway near Crabtree Lane, Burscough, after recent extremely heavy rainfall. In some places we found vegetation is overgrown and we will be clearing this from the drainage ditches we are responsible for. We are thankful to residents for letting us know about the recent water levels. However, there are other parts of the drainage system that we do not own which may need some attention. We would encourage people to contact the local council if they have concerns about drainage issues from other landowners in the area.”

Rachel Crompton, flood risk manager for Lancashire County Council, said “As lead local flood authority, we have been working closely with residents and businesses in Burscough, along with the local Flood Action Group, to document the flooding incidents they have experienced, and are aware of the issues affecting properties in Crabtree Lane. “We have commissioned a study into the causes of flooding in Burscough in order to understand the options which may be available to improve the situation and limit the impact of future flooding. We are due to receive the initial findings in the coming weeks and will be contacting people about the report in due course”.

A United Utilities spokesperson said “The root cause of flooding can be extremely complex and we are committed to working with the lead local flood authority (Lancashire County Council) and other agencies to ensure issues are investigated thoroughly and measures are put in place to help minimise the risk of flooding”.

Three instances of pure bullshittery! Not one word you could believe from Network Rail, LCC, and UU. In August 2020 the same area has flooded and now we read of how angry our MP Rosie Cooper is. And in another current case, Aughton Town Green Lane, Rachel Crompton, quoted above, has told the Champion about “…sustained rainfall events which local drainage networks were never designed to cope with…and a bigger issue with capacity of local drainage systems”. 

 

 

What Clancy Consulting Found Under Mart Lane

In 2007 Clancy Consulting

prepared a report for the development of Burscough Football Club. Lanes For Drains

inspected on behalf of Clancy, Using remotely-controlled camera systems and software, images are relayed to a mobile van unit, where a technician assesses the structural condition and integrity of the drain or sewer system.

Stored images of the Mart Lane sewers were published and enclosed in the Clancy report. They show a disturbing state of the sewers. Comments on 12 pictures shown below include “Sewer Deformed 1; Sewer Broken 4; Infiltration Running at Joint 2; Multiple Fractures 4; Hole in Sewer 1.

And that is what all of the older, Victorian, sewers in West Lancashire would look like if similar surveys were undertaken. Planners took no notice of evidence produced, in this case, for development in Burscough. And they would take no notice if more sewage surveys were undertaken in Ormskirk, Aughton, Halsall, Old Skelmersdale, and others. Is it any wonder people form local flooding groups to show the rotten state of what hides under West Lancashire? 

Flooding Of Aughton Town Green School

For a long time we have been publishing pictures of floods that start high up Parrs Lane,

which has numerous grids blocked by uncleared farm and road debris, and then flows down to Prescot Road,

and Town Green Lane, flooding the school gate areas,

the flooded Aughton Surgery entrance shown below

down to the Whalley Drive junction.

And nobody, no local or county elected member, has ever been remotely concerned. But now West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper has hit out at Lancashire County Council inaction in resolving flooding issues at Aughton Town Green Primary School.   

Headteacher Mr Nick Huxley initially contacted MP Rosie in February following Storm Ciara when the school was almost completely inaccessible due to a river of water running through it and stopping people entering through the school gates.  On that occasion, the school was forced to close at short notice leaving children without education and parents struggling to arrange childcare and alternative arrangements.    

Despite Mr Huxley meeting with LCC’s Highways Team, LCC’s Surveyor and the local LCC Councillor at the start of the year, there has been no progress on resolving the issue, as we repeat, starting in Parrs Lane.    

Rosie remains frustrated with Lancashire County Council’s failure to act and resolve this issue, with the school and surrounding area experiencing further flooding during Storm Kyle this month.    She said “It is unacceptable that Aughton Town Green School and local residents have to put up with this flooding despite Lancashire County Council having been fully aware of the flooding issues here since at least February, and Mr Huxley describing it as a ‘historic problem’.  Prescot Road/Town Green Lane junction flooded, below  

“The children are due back at school next week and not only have the investigations from the February floods not been completed and resolved but the school is still being flooded. Lancashire County Council are both the Local Lead Flood Authority and the Local Education Authority, this is for them to sort out, and they should sort it out quickly.   

“Expecting the school to be able to stump up thousands of pounds in flood surveys, investigations and defences is simply ridiculous. They have already spent over £10,000 trying to resolve this themselves – any money they spend must come from budgets which should be used for children and their education.   

“LCC tell me they believe there are issues upstream of the school so they need to get on and sort that out immediately.  The school meanwhile believes the problem may be further down Town Green Lane as the water appears to back up there all the way to the school exacerbating the situation – LCC and UU need to assess the gullies and sewer network here urgently.    

“I have written to both LCC and United Utilities demanding that this be resolved urgently as it beggars belief that these large publicly funded organisations can’t resolve this problem.  As we are approaching the start of the new school year for pupils and winter for local residents, it is vital that these issues are resolved once and for all to avoid my constituents having a wet cold winter and children having to miss more of their education. No more delays can be acceptable!” 

“Dear Rosie, you are up against a brick wall of official complacency, official ignorance, officials who couldn’t care less, official dereliction of duty, commercial interests, shareholders’ come first and the public taxpayers last. You can’t win. Simple! The floods will appear year after year in Aughton, Burscough, Halsall, and all over West Lancashire and you won’t find anyone, elected or paid, who gives a damn! You’ve met them, above, they’ve ignored you, and they always will. If you think LCC and UU are remotely interested, just ask the Burscough Flooding Group for a view of the passing the buck/blame game!”

While Rosie Cooper MP Seeks Assurances On Flood Pumps Future

While West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper has sought assurances from the Environment Agency and Government about the future of local flood pumps “local pictures tell a thousand words”.

There remains concern about the five flood pumps in the Alt Crossens catchment which serve and protect the West Lancashire area from flooding. The EA gave notice of its intention to cease operating these pumps back in 2015, but this notice has been extended pending resolution of legislative problems which prevent the formation of a local water management board. The latest extension runs until 31 March 2021.

With flooding incidents continuing in West Lancashire while the pumps remain in operation, Rosie has raised concern that there may still be intention to cease operation which could only exacerbate the current situation. She has said 24th August, 2020 “We’ve seen again parts of West Lancashire and particularly Burscough flooding in recent weeks and that is even with the continued operation of the five flood pumps.

“I and many residents fear that should the notice for the Environment Agency to cease operation of these pumps be followed through on that homes, businesses and agricultural farmland could all be subject to increased flooding.

“I have received an interim update from the EA to say they will continue to operate the pumps until legislation is passed allowing for the formation of a local water management board, but would then seek to transfer ownership and operation to the newly formed body.

“I have written to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs seeking a detailed update on the flood pump situation here in West Lancashire and asking what progress has been made to bring through the required legislation. Failure to address the future drainage and water management arrangements, will mean that when those pumps are turned off, agricultural land and residents’ homes in the Alt Crossens area is at the mercy of the weather.

“We can’t have food producing land waterlogged again, more homes at risk and homes that have been flooded facing increased risk and incidents. There needs to be some progress”.





County Highways Teams Are Ready For Storm Francis

Lancashire County Council is fully prepared to keep the county moving and respond to any impacts as a result of Storm Francis.

The Met Office has issued a yellow weather warning for high winds and heavy rain from this afternoon (Tuesday) until Wednesday morning. The storm brings the potential for disruption to travel as a result of debris and surface water flooding on roads.

The county council’s highway teams are on standby to deal with whatever the weather brings, whether there’s a need to remove downed trees, or minimise the impact of floods by diverting traffic and removing storm debris from drains. Highways teams have already been inspecting and clearing trash screens from drainage systems which are most vulnerable to flooding in readiness for the storm.

External contractors are also available to be called upon to add to the council’s manpower should they be needed. People should report any urgent problems on the roads caused by the storm which do not require an emergency response to local police by calling 101, so they can pass any issues onto highway teams as necessary.

John Davies, head of highways, said “Parts of Lancashire have already suffered flooding this month due to the unsettled summer weather, and we’re as well prepared as we can be for whatever Storm Francis brings. We hope that Lancashire won’t be too badly affected, but nevertheless our highway teams are ready to deal with incidents such as blocked roads, as well as any other urgent repairs and maintenance that may be needed.

“Unfortunately these heavy rainfall events are becoming part of our new normal as the UK climate changes, bringing weather patterns which our drainage networks were never designed to cope with. The county council is working with the region’s water companies, our city and district councils and the Environment Agency to identify where investing in public drainage infrastructure will be beneficial and bid for funds to mitigate future flooding wherever we can develop viable projects. [UU makes vast profits from domestic users who are flooded, why do they need “bids” for funds?]

“I’d ask people to report any issues with flooding so that we can gather as much information as possible to assist with our investigations and inform any future funding bids. You can also find advice on our website about what to do before, during, and after a flood”. You can find more information and advice at lancashire.gov.uk/flooding.

What you won’t hear about is the use of the “Floating Pump” which is a unique equipment, with unmatched applications and capabilities: – Complete integrated operative unit – Designed for continuous operations – Quick installation and start up – It can be installed and placed in operation, without the need to make civil constructions – Easy relocation and transportation for different pumping areas – Sizes from 16″ Q: 500 lts/sec up to 48″ Q: 5.0 m3/sec.

Looks ideal for Crabtree Lane in Burscough?