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Lancaster Area Flooding: 'No more building on fields until you sort this out' say residents


Flooding at Galgate
Flooding at Galgate
Chris Satori

Parts of the Lancaster & Morecambe district  were hit by floods again on Wednesday night with residents blaming inadequate drainage planning in new developments for the ongoing series of flood disasters affecting the area. Galgate and Halton were among the most severely affected. 

Parts of Halton flooded with drains backing up to flood in High Road as well as Low Road and the end of the Bay Gateway, as did the Lancaster & Morecambe College boiler room. Residents blamed the fact that building the new Bay Gatway link road through the natural marshland meant that runoff water had nowhere to go, and the drainage system wasn't able to cope with the massive additional volume. 

Even so, an extensive acreage of agricultural land around Junction 34 along the Bay Gateway has also been identified in the Local Plan as suitable for future residential development and the applications are coming in.

Extensive new build on the East side of Lancaster brought scenes of roads down into the city centre becoming rivers and flooding happening in unexpected places as height matters less than whether the drains can cope with the volumes of water being channelled through them every which way. Drains become sources of flooding rather than relieving it. 

Bailrigg & Galgate

On Wednesday night Main Road in Galgate was under water, the A6 had to be closed and 27 residents evacuated. Development at Bailrigg has led to flooding in Galgate for years, with residents saying this was the worst they had yet seen. 


Galgate flooding 'the worst yet'
Galgate flooding 'the worst yet'

But even now, plans are being made for massive new housing development on agricultural land from Hala and Scotforth to Galgate. A new Health Innovations Campus is planned by the University. A bigger new motorway junction and more long slip roads at M6 Jn33. A vast acreage of green fields that currently soak up water - many of which regularly flood - will be paved over.

Residents voice their concerns, endlessly present their evidence and get back platitudes from United Utilities and reassurances from planners and developers working to obsolete and inadequate regulations. A new residents' group, CLOUD has been formed to lobby for a more realistic and sustainable planning strategy, and you can find out more about the plans at their website and also at the city council's and the County Council's.

Severe rainfall events are on the increase in the UK, and not enough is being done to slow down the climate change that brings this increase in severe weather events with it. We have to adapt our planning and development processes to be sustainable as this change happens.

Our Lancaster City council is under heavy pressure to build more housing, from the government and from every business lobby with an estate agent or a construction company on its board in the North West. With that and the University on their backs there is no way they can resist. They can only make sure that every tickbox has a document commissioned that signifies compliance. 

The County Council is responsible for highway drainage, and the Bay Gateway is most definitely their baby, but as they're due to run out of cash in 18 months, thanks to years of severe government spending cuts, they're not exactly well-placed to fund infrastructure rehab projects, especially with a major new motorway junction complex at M6 J33 in their plans. 

What about United Utilities? The people who had part of the City Centre traffic system closed for 6 months, to improve the drains - just a few months before Storm Desmond flooded the whole area? That went well. Or so they keep saying. To hear them speak you'd think the residents were plugging their own drains with nappy wipes and making their own floods. How are they negotiating our welfare with the developers whose drainage systems they must support when both sides are putting their shareholders' dividends first, and their executives' pay levels never seem to fall whatever happens? 

The devastation and disruption caused by flooding to people's lives, their homes, their businesses, their health, their belongings, careers and family life is made worse by the fact that, even when they have cleaned up, the likelihood is that this cataclysm will happen again. Every time heavy rain is theatened, they have no way to know if they will be be flooded out again. They see the home they've worked for and put their life savings into becoming unsafe, and unsaleable and themselves becoming refugees. People from different agencies talk about leaves and nappy-wipes blocking the drains while the problem just goes on getting worse. 

When developments with inadequate infrastructure are forced through by political interest groups and business lobbies, all commissioning the same 'experts' to tell them what they want to hear, the voices and welfare of local residents are drowned out. Literally.




The July flood was bad to the East of the Motorway we are not on mains sewage here so it must be poor drainage and a very challenging landscape exacerbated by the Bay Gateway design. Denny Beck Lane was agan flooded and damage has been done to the banks of the stream meaning the land is falling into the beck and they are still pushing to build on land that will increase runoff. The NPPF says "Inappropriate development in areas at risk of flooding should be avoided by directing development away from areas at highest risk, but where development is necessary, making it safe without increasing flood risk elsewhere." We see this increase in flooding elsewhere time and again but once the developers move in, to say I told you so is useless.