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Angry flood victim meetings explain causes - and plan opposition to Local Plan's Garden Village

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Flood Meeting at Bowerham
Flood Meeting at Bowerham 2017
Author: 
Chris Satori

Broken flood gauge delayed warnings
M6's lack of flood management basins led to flooded becks 
Whitley Beck - Galgate 
Burrow Beck / Hala / Bowerham 
Halton 
Delays / failures to close roads to traffic made flooding worse 
MP Responses 
Report your flood and help get funding through
Flood Authority failed to recognise risks from new developments 
EA 2009 Flood Mangement Plan - do nothing 
Cuts to flood management and response services 
Local Plan's Bailrigg Garden Village scheme is not the answer 
EA flood information drop-in on 19 December
Council to vote on adopting Local Plan on 20th December 
CLOUD Drop In Session on how to oppose the Local Plan on 12th December 
List of relevant current planning applications and links

 

Multi-agency public meetings have taken place in the past week to discuss the recent flooding in Halton, Galgate and Hala / Bowerham. The meeting were packed, with over 300 people attending in Galgate and almost the same number in both Hala and Halton.

Over 250 homes had rooms actually flooded, while many more properties sustained damage or were cut off or otherwise affected. A great number of people were affected on the night, either directly or in having to rush to the aid of others, many of them elderly and vulnerable. A sheltered housing complex at Scotforth Court was flooded and frail elderly people had to be evacuated, some of whom may never get back. Floodgates on individual properties failed as water burst up through sewers and floorboards. People risked their lives struggling through flooded areas under which storm drain covers had lifted.  Residents in all three areas strongly expressed the view that recent developments in all these areas had exacerbated the problem. They demanded that the numerous further development schemes planned for these areas be halted until a more thorough flood risk assessment can be carried out and substantial and effective remedial measures can be taken to protect existing properties. 

The City Council's Susan Parsonage promised that relevant information for people seeking financial or flood defence help would be distributed and made available on their website

Residents heard accounts from representatives of the Fire and Rescue Service, the Police, the County and City Councils, Team Rubicon, the Calder Valley Community Flood Team (who answered the call for help) and the Environment Agency (EA).

Galgate residents agreed that the services had worked tirelessly in helping them during the flood and after, and they expressed their appreciation. A number of volunteers were also given high praise, with particular mention to Salvatore and Laura, who had come and worked for two days and nights with their van, helping people confronted with overwhelming difficulties. 

Broken flood gauge delayed warnings

A particular problem in Galgate was that the flood warning didn't come until after the flood had begun. The EA's Anthony Swarbrick explained that although both the Conder and Whitley Beck had played a part in the flooding, with Whitley Beck being the more likely to overflow of the two, they only had a flood guage on the Conder, due the expense, and this had malfunctioned, leaving the EA unaware of the severity of the event, and failing to provide timely warnings to residents and other agencies. 

He showed the meeting the weather chart progression for the event, which showed an unprecedented level of rainfall concentrated on the Conder catchment area. (see below

M6's lack of flood management basins led to flooded becks

In both Galgate and Hala meetings it was revealed that a published 2004 Lancaster University report had analysed flooding that had happened at that time. It noted though a detailed data analysis that: "Over the last 111 years there has been a clear increase in annual rainfall in this area of north-west England, with high rainfall months becoming a more frequent occurrence. This trend towards wetter autumns and winters is in agreement with climate change models and other observations and with the recent positive mode in the North Atlantic Oscillation."

The report also calculated that in the 2004 flood 323,135 gallons of water had flooded off a 1.3km section of the M6 into Whitley Beck, a local tributary of the Conder, in less than two hours. and noted that "This section of the M6, is some of the oldest motorway in the UK, built long before requirements for storm detention basins, which are now a standard feature in many constructions to act as temporary reservoirs to slow rapid runoff after storm events." None of the agencies involved appeared to have been aware of this flood risk from the M6, or its lack of flood provision

Further north the M6 drains into Burrow Beck. For the 2004 flood the University's weather station at Hazelrigg registered a record 41mm of rain falling over a 24 hour period. On Wednesday 22 November 2017 they recorded 75mm. In Over Kellet they recorded 90mm. 

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Flooding at Galgate
Flooding at Galgate

Whitley Beck - Galgate

Piecing together the accounts from services and residents, it appears that extremely heavy rain fell on an area that was already soaked from several days of rain. Whitley Beck burst its banks, resulting in water flooding down Stoney Lane into Galgate and water was also seen to be cascading down from the University and flooding down the A6 and Chapel Lane into the village. Residents noted in some areas the high flood defences on the Conder actually prevented water escaping - and that there the water eventually topped the defenses and flowed over and into the Conder, filling it. Residents on the A6 complained that there had been a delay in closing the road, and that vehicles speeding through had set up bow waves that flooded into people's homes, shortening the the time they had to rescue their property.

The Police explained that on that night they had received over 2000 calls for help in relation to flooding throughout their area, as flooding had occured in various places. Galgate appeared to have come later than most, with, flooding of roads and residential properties occuring earlier in Hala. Locally police had first concentrated their efforts there. By the time they were able to close the A6 in Galgate properties were already flooded. 

Burrow Beck / Hala / Bowerham

Bowerham and Hala residents related that Burrow Beck had also burst its banks, and that water had also 'exploded' out of drains. Properties on Bowerham Road, Lentworth Drive and in Hala were flooded. Several residents complained that they had received no help or information on the night and hadn't known where to turn. 

A sheltered housing complex at Scotforth Court was flooded and frail elderly people had to be evacuated, some of whom may never get back. Floodgates on individual properties failed as water burst up through sewers and floorboards. One resident complained that storm drain near his elderly mother's house regularly burst, filling her garden with up to 3 feet of water within minutes. Complaints to various authorities had produced no action. 

Residents living in view of Burrow Beck stoutly contradicted the EA's claim that a contract to clear it had been carried out last spring and demanded to see evidence of it, as the beck had become overgrown and was poorly maintained. They were promised that it would be supplied.

Residents in Bowerham / Hala, Galgate and Willow Lane all complained that gullies had not been cleared for years and that watercourse dredging programmes had been discontinued.

Residents affected by Burrow Beck were advised by the EA to form a Community Flood Group to collate evidence, plan for emergencies and lobby for improvements. County Councillor Erica Lewis offered to collect names of people interested in finding out more about such a group. She can be contacted via erica.lewis@lancashire.gov.uk.

Halton

Similarly, Halton struggled with water, not, this time, from the Lune bursting its banks, but pouring off the new Bay Gateway road development. The main road under the Gateway bridge was waist deep and the village cut off. As the Lancaster Guardian reported, "Residents battled against the water seeping into their properties in High Road, while Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service spent several hours pumping water from Pennystone Road, where sheltered housing bungalows had to be vacated.  The main flow of water was bursting from drains in Arrow Lane, running in torrents down into High Road, and then filling up in Pennystone Road and Sykelands Avenue." The Red Door Cafe flooded as did Church Brow, for the second time in two years. 

Delays / failures to close roads to traffic made flooding worse

In every location people complained that traffic persisted in driving along flooded streets, pushing a bow wave of  water into properties, some of which would have been spared had the roads been closed in time. Unfortunately the police alone didn't have the capacity to do this in time in the many areas affected and required the help of the County Council Highways Department, and it wasn't explained what held them up.  A resident of Willow Lane in Lancaster pointed out that their properties would not have been flooded at all if the road had been closed in time. Residents were deeply upset that people in cars had laughed and taken videos as they did their damage. 

MP Responses

MP Cat Smith, who was present at the Hala meeting, told residents that she would pursue the issue of inadequate motorway drainage with Highways England, who are responsible for it. She also said that she had been lobbying Government for more flood defence resources since Storm Desmond, without success. Following the recent flood she was told that assistance could not be made available as the flooding was not deemed to be 'sufficiently widespread'.

She urged residents who had been affected by flooding to lodge reports on their individual experiences with the City Council (flooding@lancaster.gov.uk), the Environment Agency (cmbinc-pso@environment-agency.gov.uk) and the County Council Flood Risk Management Team (FRM@lancashire.gov.uk). This information would help to strengthen the case for adequate funding.

MP David Morris did not attend, but after flooded residents in Halton circulated his personal phone number and appealed to him to come and rescue them he told Bay Radio that he had "written to the Environment Agency to see if they can come up with a scheme for Halton and will be pressing them to ensure they put an application in to Government." He also said he had tabled a parliamentary question flagging Morecambe & Lunesdale as a suitable recipient of money from the UK flood defence budget. 

Flood Authority failed to recognise risks from new developments

In Bowerham and Galgate residents complained that new developments on greenfield sites had added to the problem as, rather than the land soaking up rainfall, water had been run off into drainage systems that emptied into the watercourses that were already being flooded from the motorway. Andrew Dobson of the City Council explained that they could not oppose planning applications on flood risk grounds unless the Environment Agency and / or the Lead Flood Authority (The County Council) lodged an objection. It was noted that no objections had been raised following these agencies' assessments of several sites currently under application, with the exception of one at Lancaster Leisure Park where a flood basin had been stipulated.  One proposed site that they had not objected to, Ward Field in Galgate, was submerged during the Galgate flood. Parts of another site currently under application on Low Road in Halton were submerged under a metre of water. These errors in assessment on the part of the two agencies, who are exclusively responsible for the task, have very clearly led to a breakdown of local confidence in their competence. See below for a list of relevant current planning applications.

EA Flood Mangement Plan - do nothing

The EA's 2009 Lune Catchment Flood Management Plan said of Burrow Beck "We currently  carry out relatively little flood risk  management activity and there are no flood defences...Our vision for the unit is to protect  and restore as much of the natural  floodplain as possible in order  to provide flood storage, prevent  inappropriate development and  reduce flooding, whilst providing  environmental benefits. The floodplain is our most  important asset in managing  flood risk. We want to safeguard  the natural floodplain from  inappropriate development.  Effective development control and application of sustainable  drainage approaches within the catchment are important." Since then they have approved several large new residential developments on green sites in the area. 

For Galgate the message was even bleaker: "Average depth of  flooding in this sub-area is around 1m and this is expected to increase  by 0.5m by 2100. This represents  a significant potential hazard to life  during both now and in future flood  events. Road bridges and a culvert  can increase flood risk and require  regular maintenance...The existing flood risk  management measures at  Galgate require improvement.  However, the economic  justification for improvements  will need to be established  and may not be sufficient to  attract funding. Also, significant  reduction in flood risk to Galgate  may not be possible without  damaging its visual amenity.   Managing residual flood  risk through flood warning, awareness and emergency  planning will be important."

Cuts to flood management and response services

However it was noted on several occasions that due to government spending cuts every agency attending had substantially fewer resources now than they did 5-10 years ago, and consequently were struggling to meet the new challenges brought by changing weather patterns and their impacts on old drainage systems that were never designed to cope with them. Mr Dobson of Lancaster City Council told Hala residents that this problem of obsolescence was built into the system as they were only permitted to assess new developments on the basis of existing weather data - they could not object on the grounds that a drainage system might be just about adequate now, but would likely fail 5 or 10 years hence.

Local Plan's Bailrigg Garden Village scheme is not the answer

Last week the City Council issued a statement claiming that their proposed Bailrigg Garden Village (BGV) scheme for 3500-5000 new homes might be able to incorporate a flood management plan that would improve the situation in Galgate. However, as Galgate residents carefully explained to Mr Dobson, the BGV proposal lies mainly in the Burrow Beck catchment area north of the University campus. It was not feasible that there could be a single common solution within this scheme for both the Burrow Beck catchment and the Whitley Beck / River Conder catchment areas, as they are separate systems divided by a clay hill. It also seems dubious whether, given the currrent vulnerabilities of all the regulatory bodies involved, any such improvements could be guaranteed. It seems more likely that any impacts will be negative. The scheme is part of the Local Plan. 

Council to vote on adopting Local Plan on 20th December

On 20th December Lancaster City Council is going to debate a motion to adopt the Local Plan (of which Bailrigg garden village is a key element) and councillors are being pressed to support this motion.  As part of this debate, the local petition against the garden village will also be debated and members of the Galgate campaign group CLOUD will be addressing councillors with a summary of their objections. The Local Plan also includes a new Health Innovations Campus at the University and a new stretch of M6 link road passing through what are currently green fields east and uphill from Galgate. It also designates large greenfield areas on Caton Road south of the M6 J34 as potential residential development sites, and more land travelling west from J34 along the south side of the Bay Gateway. 

The City Council is under heavy government pressure to designate potential sites for 12,000 new homes to be built by 2031. But it could potentially use the Local Plan to designate areas that cannot be built on. For example, if the land is deemed essential to flood management for the M6 or the Bay Gateway, or to mitigate flooding in residential areas that are currently at risk. Currently local land has no protection, and is subject to applications that must be determined individually. But if land is designated as available for development in Local Plan it is more likely to become vulnerable to piecemeal development applications. 

The City Council has assured residents that before the Local Plan goes to the Government Inspector for final approval next year they will have collated data from the floods and will amend it accordingly. You can find out more about the Local Plan on the City Council website here.

The EA has also arranged a flood information drop-in session on Tuesday 19th December at Ellel Village Hall from 3-8pm. (Note date has been changed)

CLOUD Drop In Session on the Local Plan

Galgate campaign group CLOUD has arranged a drop-in session for all CLOUD members and supporters to help and encourage their campaign against Bailrigg Garden Village.  The drop-in session will be on Tuesday 12th December in the Cobblers' Suite at the Boot & Shoe pub in Scotforth.  Members of the CLOUD team will be there from 3pm to 8pm.

CLOUD are appealing to local residents to write as soon as possible (in time for the December 20 Council debate) to the City Council (planningpolicy@lancaster.gov.uk) and their local councillors opposing the Local Plan and Bailrigg Garden Village in particular.   The drop-in session will provide advice and suggestions. 

List of relevant current planning applications

There are a number of planning applications for large residential developments currently under consideration in all three areas, and to date the EA and the County Council's Flood Risk Management Team have not presented much of a challenge to them, despite two of the proposed sites disappearing under water last week. You can lodge your own views on these plans (and you should note that deadlines are fast approaching) on the City council planning website. You can check for planning applications for your area using the City Council's online map (set it to 5 years back as some applications take years).

Halton Planning Applications

17/01423/REM Land South Of Low Road, Halton, Lancashire
Reserved matters application for the erection of 60 dwellings and associated infrastructure

17/00959/REM Land Between Low Road And Forge Lane, Halton, Lancashire
Reserved matters application for the erection of 87 dwellings with associated landscaping. This site was under 1m water.

17/00224/FUL Land To The Rear Of Pointer Grove And Adjacent To High Road, Halton, Lancashire
Erection of 66 dwellings with associated access, landscaping, open space, drainage, highway and parking arrangements and land re-profiling works

Galgate Planning Applications

17/00944/OUT  Ward Field Farm Main Road Galgate Lancaster Lancashire LA2 0JG 
Outline application for the demolition of existing agricultural buildings, retention and residential conversion of stone barn for up to 2 dwellings and erection of up to 73 dwellings with associated access. This site 
 

Bailrigg Planning Applications

16/01308/REM Land For Proposed Bailrigg Business Park, Bailrigg Lane, Lancaster, Lancashire
Reserved Matters application for the erection of a 5 storey research and development building (B1) with ancillary facilities, new internal road, car parking and landscaping

Bailrigg Garden Village No application at present but it is incorporated into the Local Plan

Hala / Bowerham /Burrow Beck Planning Applications

16/01037/FUL  Land Adjacent Aikengill Scotforth Road Lancaster Lancashire LA1 4NU 
Erection of 13 dwellings with associated new access and regrading of land, construction of internal roads and cycle paths

16/01551/FUL  Land At Bowerham Lane Lancaster Lancashire 
Erection of 25 dwellings and creation of a new access and access roads

 

 

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Comments

Emails to the cmbinc-pso@environment-agency.gov.uk address are bouncing saying address coudn't be found. This was the address printed on the leaflet given out by the EA at the meeting.
Just checked and it's actually cmblnc-pso@environment-agency.gov.uk