Category Archives: Flood Watch

“We Refuse To Treat Residents With Such Contempt”

Until it suits us?

Open Letter To Residents Of West Lancashire From Council Leader, Cllr Ian Moran March 12 2019 “At a meeting of the West Lancashire Borough Council Cabinet this evening, the Labour administration requested that the timescale for developing a new Local Plan be changed, in order to take into account the concerns raised by residents during the recent public consultation.

“We have said from the outset of this Local Plan process that we wanted this to be a meaningful consultation, in which the public could see that their concerns were being listened to.

“When the last Local Plan review took place, the Conservative administration, which included OWL Cllr Adrian Owens, completely ignored the concerns of residents across the borough over plans to build significant numbers of housing in the area, not least Burscough residents’ overwhelming referendum result. We refuse to treat residents with such contempt.

[The referendum Question was “Do you want the West Lancashire Borough Council to release green belt land at Yew Tree Farm and Red Cat Lane for developments disproportionate to the size of Burscough, without thoroughly investigating and exhausting all suitable alternatives and prioritizing non-green belt land first We refuse to treat residents with such contempt. Yes 55, no 1,438]

“The proposals put forward for a new Local Plan were intended to try and stop the problem of housing developments being built without any guarantee of infrastructure improvements, to roads, schools and GP surgeries.

However, we refuse to drive this through against residents’ wishes, and so we will review the responses and update the evidence used in formulating the plan, to ensure that a more effective set of proposals can be brought forward in future.

“This Conservative government has placed local authorities under huge pressure to deliver new housing, without giving them sufficient powers to tackle the problems of developers sitting on development land and trying to cherry pick the best sites, as happened last year with our successful defence of Parrs Lane in Aughton. If we don’t review our Local Plan regularly, the government will impose the housing on us without any regard for local infrastructure, so we need to make sure we are doing everything we can to keep control”.

Returning to the statement We refuse to treat residents with such contempt”, how else can current contemptuous treatment of the Burscough Flooding Group be described? How can an elected body blandly ignore the democratic right to be heard because paid officers advise otherwise? WLBC Labour 2020 isn’t fixing the Tory mess, it’s just adding to it?


Flooding, Sewage, And No Community Rights

Tonight, at 7pm, on the day that WLBC proved it doesn’t know what day of the week it is, a planning decision will be made that betrays the entire Labour controlled community of Burscough.

The (No party whipping allowed) Labour dominated planning committee will support a proposal from a Planning Officer that states “Site Of Former Yew Tree Farm Liverpool Road South Burscough Lancashire. Approval of Reserved Matters – Phased development of 267 dwellings, Burscough West, Recommendation: Approve with conditions”.

Never mind that Burscough Flood Group has stated “Adding proposed homes from Phase 2 will significantly add to the existing foul water flooding problems in Burscough. Foul effluent is regularly seen on the streets in Burscough during heavy rainfall. The phase 2 planning application doesn’t provide the necessary additional foul network capacity to prevent foul flooding” and much more”.

Or that Burscough Town Council has objected to the application, stating, “The Jacobs Report was received at County Council 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. The current Strategic Flood Risk Assessment is considered to be flawed at inception, due to lack of and inaccurate detail, and to be out of date, being ten years old now without a review.

“A new Local Plan Review has been promised which will have to produce a new SFRA. That will not be in time for this application; During the consultation period for the current Local Plan residents were promised that improvements would follow. That hasn’t happened. If anything in certain areas the opposite has happened. e.g.:- a) Sewer surcharging on Liverpool Road South has increased and no improvements have been made to UU infrastructure. The surcharging results in contaminated sewage flooding”.

And a local resident, stating “Lack of, or the inadequacy of the drainage infrastructure; The Authorities and other Bodies have a duty to ensure the drainage system is “fit for purpose” and is sufficiently robust to deal with capacity issues now and for the future – Concern that drainage Authorities, have inadequate knowledge about the watercourses and culverts in West Lancashire to understand how the whole of the system works; Crabtree Lane has suffered 4 serious flooding events since December 2015, and contaminated foul water has been known to overflow the sewage pipe close to Orrell Lane; How is it possible to say the drainage systems already put in place, are in fact safe, and without fault”.

And there is so much more. But the income for LCC, WLBC, and UU from new housing, especially council tax, will dominate the proceedings. Fit for purpose will not be an issue, just the filthy lucre. To summarise the situation, Burscough Flooding Group recently suggested “Although it seems totally inappropriate to delegate decisions to predetermined bodies with vested financial interests, BFG believe this method of decision making has now become WLBC’s normal operating procedure and this sort of thing could have been going on indefinitely. Perhaps, it is suggested, this approach explains why BFG’s input to planning applications has not been considered and why so many sites that have come forward in Burscough now cause flooding”.

Not knowing what day of the week it is won’t deter officers from this decision. But the betrayal will always be remembered.

Update. The item was withdrawn for consideration of a problem with it that officers were having to resolve. For consideration in June.

The Open Letter Asking For Fairness That WLBC Will Not Want You To Read

As Yew Tree Farm Phase 2 rears its ugly head in Burscough, WLBC will press ahead regardless of local concerns democratically raised by those who will suffer from it.

WLBC states “The current application is in accordance with the overarching scheme and the statutory consultees are satisfied, as they were in 2015, that the drainage proposals are acceptable and will not worsen flood risk on or off the site. The application is recommended for approval by Planning Committee” notwithstanding sewage and floods have invaded some areas of Burscough for the past five years.

And there is now a Burscough Flooding Group “Open Letter to WLBC Council Leader and Chief Operating Officer” which states “It was disappointing to note that you incorrectly stated in your email that I have made “allegations of corruption” in my letter when I did not. What I did ask was the following, drawn from the 2015 Transparency Code, “Has a culture of secrecy and lack of transparency in WLBC created an environment which allows corruption to flourish?”

“I would appreciate an answer to the question, if the Council Leader or Chief Executive will allow you to do so. I would particularly like to know what safeguards are in place to prevent the deferred decision making process being misused and what precautions are taken to verify that deferred decisions are fair?

“I note that you also state, “the responses from BFG have been given due consideration, and the above applications are being dealt with in accordance with the Council’s Constitution and both national and local planning policies”.

“Given that flooding in Burscough is an ongoing local controversy with a great deal of public interest, it would prevent the controversy growing if WLBC demonstrated the accuracy of its bold statement by revealing the care it took by providing the details missing from the officers report, such as: 1. The date and time of the meeting when consideration of BFG representation took place (even if there was only 1 person). 2. Where the consideration took place. 3. The technical reasons why all of the points raised were either accepted or discounted. 4. The numbers of attending Flood Risk Managers, councillors, officers and any others. 5. The job titles/suitability/technical competence of the attendees. 6. How the decision was made, for example was it made by equal voting of attendees, or in some other way”.

“WLBC doesn’t have a vested interest in its strategic development site if you ignore new housing bonus, rates, and CIL (are there any other benefits). I note that WLBC has nothing to say about the almost equally obvious vested interests of UU and LCC. Your offer that BFG meet with a planning officer rather than WLBC Council Leader or the Chief Operating Officer is entirely inappropriate given that the complaints are about planning and the suggestion that BFG have refused several offers of a meeting with the same officer is entirely incorrect”.

Readers may recall how anger about the entire development was related in 2016 as “Absolutely disgraceful, Burscough residents have had no say at all in this matter, l wasn’t asked and l bet a lot more residents weren’t either, the village won’t be able to cope with the mass amounts of people coming to live here, also the drainage system and road network eg A59. Seems to me a lot of underhanded activity here, say no more. Grrrrr”.

Can You Avoid Making Routine Enquiries?

Like how to avoid the routine raw sewage appearing in Burscough when it rains and the utilities are not united enough to cope?

You know that local authorities in England have been given new powers to hold meetings, including planning committees, by video or telephone conferencing. The government announced it had temporarily removed the legal requirement for councils to hold public meetings in person during the coronavirus outbreak.

A statement from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said the measure would allow council staff, members and the public to stay at home but still access decision meetings.

However, many councillors across the country are not happy about this move. The change covers all category of public meetings. It will be up to each local authority to decide how meetings should be conducted and how the public has access.

Cheek of the week!

From a planning officer who must remain anonymous “Please give some credit to council officials, who are knocking themselves out 7 days a week to stay on top of this, coordinating help to the most vulnerable and ensuring that key services are maintained. If you can avoid making routine enquiries (eg about a planning application) during this period that would be great”.

An Open Letter

to the WLBC Chief Operating Officer and Council Leader

is circulating in the borough, as crucial planning applications will be considered this week using the virtual meeting system of the Planning Committee, that will take place on Thursday, 21 May 2020 at 7.00 PM. A Skype meeting request will be sent to individual Members of the Planning Committee. The meeting will also be available to view for members of the public via Webcast on the Council’s website.

The open letter is to Chief Operating Officer Jacqui Sinnott-Lacey and Council Leader Ian Moran, and refers to the planning application for the second phase of Yew Tree Farm (YTF) for 267 homes (2020/0293/CON and 2019/1182/ARM), for the Burscough Flooding Group found that 2020/0293/CON was going to be determined in such a way that can, at best, be described as not transparent or, at worst, be described as completely illegal.

Chief amongst local concerns are that Burscough Flooding Group’s (BFG) representations can’t be meaningfully considered, because the decision makers, United Utilities (UU), West Lancashire Borough Council (WLBC) and Lancashire County (LCC), have all publicly stated that they will not accept drainage/flooding evidence from BFG, which might suggest that the Local Government Ethical Standards in public life are no longer a feature that West Lancashire residents can expect to benefit from.

In addition to the above, at least two of the decision makers have very clear vested financial interests, council tax income, in 2019/1182/ARM going ahead and, as you know 2020/0293/CON could determine the outcome of 2019/1182/ARM.

Of equal concern is that, although it seems totally inappropriate to delegate decisions to predetermined bodies with vested financial interests, BFG believe this method of decision making has now become WLBC’s normal operating procedure and this sort of thing could have been going on indefinitely. Perhaps, it is suggested, this approach explains why BFG’s input to planning applications has not been considered and why so many sites that have come forward in Burscough now cause flooding.

So the very reasonable and legal expectations of the BFG are a request that those addressed in the open letter investigate BFG’s concerns with particular regard being given to the following questions. Is WLBC, by failing to meaningfully take into account representations received, carrying out 2020/0293/CON and 2019/1182/ARM in an unlawful manner? Is WLBC, by making decisions on 2020/0293/CON behind closed doors without public oversight, acting in violation of the Local Government Act 1972? Has a culture of secrecy and lack of transparency in WLBC created an environment which allows developmental corruption to flourish?

Astute readers will recognise what is going on from widely spread public articles about the Burscough sewage and surface water problems. Putting it together with absentee councillors escaping expulsion by dubious timelines, and how the Beacon Park Golf Course landfill for royalties planning permissions openly involved huge scale VAT fraudsters, including an admission by a senior officer that one of them attended a meeting and his name remains historically on a planning permission to this day, should we despair about how low standards are? Probably!

What One Judicial Decision Can Lead To?

In one of the judicial review claims currently pending against the South Cambridgeshire council in the High Court

that related to Steeple Morden, the Fews Lane Consortium alleges that the council’s practice of taking delegation decisions on planning applications at unannounced meetings, from which the public are excluded and for which no agendas or minutes are published, is a violation of the Local Government Act 1972.

According to the act, local authorities are to take decisions at public meetings and produce written records of decisions that are open to inspection by the press and the public.

In response to that claim, officers submitted a proposal to the council’s planning committee to correct the legal defect in the council’s delegation scheme for planning decisions. This would mean future planning decisions would not be subject to being challenged on grounds of illegality.

On February 12, the council’s planning committee voted 5-4 to approve the proposal, which removed all powers to call-in planning applications from elected councillors and parish councils and instead transferred those powers to the council’s joint director of planning.

On February 17, officers uploaded an amended version of the council’s constitution onto the council’s website that incorporated the changes proposed by the council’s planning committee despite those changes never having been approved by the full council itself.

Documents provided by the Fews Lane Consortium cite the provisions regarding local authority constitutions contained in Part 1A of the Local Government Act 2000 and in particular section 9R(6) of the act, which expressly prohibits councils from delegating the passing of resolutions in relation to councils’ constitutions to their committees, sub-committees, or officers.

Daniel Fulton, who is leading the Consortium’s litigation efforts, stated that “not only did the council not delegate the authority to change its constitution to its planning committee, but it was prohibited from doing so by section 9R(6) of the statute.”

“It is deeply regrettable that the Consortium has been forced to issue further legal proceedings against the council in this case. Just last week, we wrote to the members of the council’s cabinet explaining that the Consortium would greatly prefer to sit down and find a collaborative and cooperative way to address our concerns about the problems in the council’s planning service without the need for further legal proceedings. However, no response was received.

“As long as the council’s leadership continues to refuse to engage in any kind of meaningful or constructive dialogue, we will have no choice but to continue to hold the council accountable for the illegality of its decisions through the judicial process”.

Now let us look locally at the WLBC case 2019/1182/ARM, which is Phase 2 of Yew Tree Farm for over 250 houses and it is due to be decided on the 22nd May. Drainage was a reserved matter and it was called in by Burscough Borough Councillor Cynthia Dereli because of the widespread flooding problems in Burscough. This development is the largest single application for homes in Burscough ever.

Because it was called in, WLBC hived of drainage conditions 26 and 30 into 2020/0293/CON and hasn’t linked it to 2019/1182/ARM and won’t let it be called in. When it was recently found, in case 2020/0293/CON, the only evidence it contained was from the developer LCC, UU and WLBC no objections to 2019/1182/ARM on drainage/flooding grounds were included. WLBC have stated that they provided that evidence to themselves, UU and LCC, and if they agree the development won’t cause flooding then conditions 26 and 30 will be approved.

Burscough Flooding Group and Burscough Town Council (BTC) having previously objected to 2019/1182/ARM on flooding/drainage grounds, then on finding their objections weren’t linked in to 2020/0293/CON asked that they be considered and WLBC said that they will be sent to LCC and UU for them to consider.

However, it is in the financial/political interests of WLBC to approve the application because it supports a key part of their local plan and generates new housing revenue. It is impossible for UU to refuse a connection without breaking the law and it is financial disadvantageous for them to record all of the additional flooding problems which have been provided to it by BFG, because it would result in £20M+ expenditure on expanding their network capacity.

It is impossible for LCC to advise against a connection to their drainage system without it being financial disadvantageous, because it would result in additional expenditure in restoring and increasing their surface water drainage network and taking action against riparian owners who neglect their systems.

The largest and most comprehensive source of flooding evidence available is that provided by BFG collected from residents over several years. It shows much more frequent levels of flooding than that recorded by UU, LCC and WLBC. Virtually the only evidence against the development is BFG’s data and it, along with some professional flooding reports mislaid or lost by WLBC, form the basis of BFGs comments on all applications with flooding/drainage problems, as does BTC’s objections to planning applications on flooding/drainage grounds.

UU and WLBC publicly stated that it would not accept BFG’s data (Public Meeting with WLBC, LCC and UU Chaired by UU on the 5th June at Briars Hall Hotel). LCC would not accept evidence from BFG in its S19 report on the Boxing day 2015 floods and publicly stated it in a LCC Council meeting in 2016. That S19 report paints a false picture of few flood problems mostly resolved, when the opposite was the experience of residents. LCC has worked with BFG since and has praised our work but has never included our evidence into its records.

UU, LCC and WLBC will determine whether 2020/0293/CON is approved. They will decide what weight to give residents evidence, yet they have predetermined themselves not to consider BFG data and therefore the vast majority of the information available and provided by BFG and BTC also.
In 2015 Rosie Cooper MP stated “We can’t afford to ignore flooding threats until it is too late. We must hold each of the agencies to account”. Five years on and our supposed democratic rights to be represented by elected members have evaporated into the powers of officers. No agency has been held to account. And after Thursday this coming week they never will. Whoops, there ARE the Royal Courts of Justice, just ask the Fews Lane Consortium!

Council To Approve “Raw Sewage In Burscough Streets” Policy

Council states “Burscough Yew Tree Farm will only be developed when the council are satisfied that problems existing with infrastructure are resolved”

Burscough Town Council has objected to the application, and WLBC has also received an objection from Burscough Flood Group. Drainage was an extremely important consideration of the outline permission and indeed is of great concern to the local community. When spoken to about the difficulties residents had in communicating with WLBC officers the new Chief Operating Officer stated her commitment to council transparency. 

Decision; “It is considered that the proposed development is acceptable in terms of layout, housing mix, appearance and scale and that the proposed landscaping scheme will assimilate the development into its surroundings. I am satisfied that the proposed development would allow for the provision and retention of reasonable levels of amenity, including raw sewage in the streets,  for the occupants of future and neighbouring properties. I find that the proposed development is compliant with the NPPF, the West Lancashire Local Plan 2012-2027 DPD, the Burscough Parish Neighbourhood Plan and the Yew Tree Farm Masterplan SDP in respect of drainage, highways ecology, and sewage on the streets”.

The application and policy show that UU, LCC and WLBC will determine whether 2020/0293/CON is approved. They will decide what weight to give residents’ evidence, yet they have predetermined themselves not consider Burscough Flooding Group  data and therefore the vast majority of the information available and provided by BFG and Burscough Town Council also.

When we visited the WLBC offices to try to discuss the matter we were told, sorry, the Planning Department officers are busy. But we managed to take our picture before the door was closed in our faces, just as it will next week for the residents of Burscough.

This from a Labour council that went to court to overturn the Parrs Lane proposed development, now happily putting into law a raw sewage in the streets policy, and using the Tory Government “Local Authorities and Police and Crime Panels (Coronavirus) (Flexibility of Local Authority and Police and Crime Panel Meetings) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020” that includes “They should also consider using ‘urgency powers’ within their constitutions to give senior officers delegated authority to make decisions”. They “do” delegated rather well here in West Lancashire.

And that is why it will be lawful for WLBC Planning Department to “Approve Raw Sewage In Burscough Streets”.

Questions And Answers On Flooded Burscough

The new Borough Chief Operating Officer Jacqui Sinnott-Lacey believed that “exciting times lie ahead for the Borough and its people”. It’s early days and the jury is still out!

In early April a member of the Burscough Flood Group wrote to her “You may recall we spoke at the Burscough Town Council meeting earlier this year when I introduced myself to you.

“I listened to what you had to say and I did note you indicating that many of the issues which Burscough suffers would be addressed under your Leadership. Of particular note was your indication that West Lancs. Borough Council would comply with the standards expected by way of openness and transparency, it is to be hoped that honesty and integrity are amongst the Principles you wish to include within the standards you hope to build on and uphold.

“You may also recall I wrote to you on 13th February to let you know my home had been threatened with flood again with contaminated water coming within half an inch of entering my home. I only saved my home and my neighbours from internal flooding by the deployment of pumps on 9th February for the 5th time in a 6 month period (With photographs as evidence).

“I recognise you will be very busy, and I am sure that is the reason why my problem was not worthy of any acknowledgement from you. “With this in mind, I would not wish to have you take up your time in responding directly to this E-mail and accompanying Report. Your enthusiastic declarations on how things are going to improve are nothing I haven’t heard a hundred times over by other enthusiastic new leaders.

“So, although I would not ask for any response to this e-mail, I would however welcome positive proof once you have managed to implement the changes you have indicated you say you are going to bring about which safeguard our Community, and Burscough Residents in particular, from any deceit being played on them through the insincere promises of the past”.

The reply?

“Jacob’s Report And Burscough Flooding Issues. Thank you for your recent email, relating to the Jacob’s Report. My team have recently responded to Rosie Cooper MP on this matter following your contact with her.

“It was lovely to meet you at the Burscough Parish Council meeting. As I outlined I am particularly keen that the Council listens to residents’ concerns and responds to them in an open, honest and fair manner. Flooding concerns in connection with your property are clearly very problematic and understandably distressing for you. Can I apologise that you did not receive an acknowledgement to the email that you sent through in February, this should have been sent even though in your note you indicated that you were not requiring a response at that time.

“I am aware that several members of the Burscough Flood Action Group have recently been in touch with the Borough Council about flooding issues in the Burscough area and I know that Mr Ian Gill, Head of Growth and Development, has offered to personally meet with you, along with members of his team. He is keen to discuss your concerns in an effort to move matters forward. I hope that, once this current crisis is over, you will be able to take up his offer.

“I have noted your concerns about the Jacob’s Report. This report was commissioned by Lancashire County in their role as the Lead Local Flood Authority. The report has only recently been received by the Borough Council. Any issues with the report will need to be put to, and responded by, the Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA) and I believe that the Burscough Flood Action Group have already communicated their concerns to the LLFA.

“Taken from Jacobs’ Report; RMAs engaged with as part of this SWMP include: Lancashire County Council (as Lead Local Flood Authority and Highway Authority); West Lancashire Borough Council (as District Council); and, United Utilities (as Water and Sewerage Company).

“A project start-up meeting was held on the 6th December 2018 with key RMAs listed above to share local knowledge of flood history, define the aims and objectives of the SWMP, to develop the scope of the study including the sharing of critical data sets and key project deadlines. I hope that this is helpful and that you will be able take up discussions with our team going forward”.
As we suggest, the jury is still out, but there is promise. But we might remember previous management performances, all with bitter disappointments for Burscough.


The Local Labour Party Is More Important Than A Few More Flooded Residents In Burscough?

“It is not possible for Burscough to have greater representation!”

Cllr David Evans, Portfolio Holder for Planning, elected to Burscough East 5 May 2016.

27 April 2020 From Cllr “evans dave” to Gavin Rattray 2019/1182/ARM

“The above application will most probably be on the agenda for the May meeting of the Planning Committee. The Committee met in April by means of a Skype Conference Call. All things considered it was a success.

“All four WLBC Cllrs for Burscough are at present members of the planning committee. That is, Cllr Dereli, Cllr Pritchard (Vice Chair) ,Cllr David Evans (Cabinet Planning Portfolio) and Cllr Susan Evans. I would note you have a habit of not including Cllr Susan Evans in correspondence. Cllr Pope the Lancashire County Councillor for Burscough as you will know is also a member of the Planning Committee in his guise as WLBC Cllr for Newburgh.

“It is not possible for Burscough to have greater representation! For the past few weeks, Planning Officers have been diverted to full time duties in regard to Covid 19 emergency. The Officers’ knowledge of the Borough being invaluable.

“Starting from today officers are starting to return to Planning duty. However the majority of their time will be spent working from home. I have some points still to determine reference this application. I will hope to write to you before the end of the week.

“Regards Stay Safe Dave Evans”.

From Gavin Rattray 28 April 2020 responseDear Councillors David Evans and Ian Moran. Thank you for your email David. I believe that this may be the first time you have responded to any email from any member of Burscough Flooding Group.

“The voting history of WLBC means I am not reassured by the presence of so many Labour councillors on planning; like the Tories, you may all decide to vote to pass YTF phase 2 because it’s in the party’s interests. WLBC needs the money and the local Labour party is more important than a few more flooded residents in Burscough. The presence of Councillor Pope isn’t reassuring, being he has been a staunch supporter of Yew Tree Farm, and to my knowledge, has never voted against any aspect of it.

“As you know the key drainage items 26 and 30 have been hived off into 2020/0293/CON to be passed separately by a junior council officer, with suitable supporting evidence; and no one in the Conservative or Labour parties will be associated with the resulting flooding problems. When I say, suitable supporting evidence, what I mean is that the only evidence countering that provided by developers, UU, WLBC and LCC (who all have vested financial interests), is from BFG (who is interested in safeguarding Burscough from flooding).

“Yet our evidence has no weight at all, because WLBC has very publicly stated that it won’t take evidence from BFG, as has United Utilities, and LCC’s action speaks louder than words because it refused BFG’s evidence of flooding for its S19 report of the 2015 boxing day floods and its resulting S19 report painted a false picture of Burscough’s flooding problems. Other points worth mentioning are that the developer has no duty to be fair, i.e. to present a balanced case. I believe that duty only lies with LCC and WLBC.

“Now might be a good time to inform Councillor Ian Moran that we still have the same concerns (and more) that we have emailed him about for many years. We still want to meet him because he is both in a unique position of control, has a duty to meet regularly with residents groups and to set a high standard of probity. We would normally want to discuss our concerns face to face, but COVID means he needs to respond to our emails himself”.

“Best regards, Gavin Rattray – Secretary Burscough Flooding Group”.

Without wishing to be facetious, what does a planning officer know of Covid-19, other than watching the Prime Minister and others tell us what charts of trends exist. If they have sat in the same seats at the same desks, but are now working from home, we should really be told. I ask this from my bunker

where I have been for weeks. Whoops, should I seek retrospective planning permission for it?