Lancaster flood action groups unite against ‘unacceptable’ plans for hundreds of new homes

Residents and flood action groups in Lancaster have expressed “concern and alarm” over the prospect of hundreds of planned new homes.

By Nick Lakin
Thursday, 28th November 2019, 11:14 am
Flooding in Galgate in 2017
Flooding in Galgate in 2017

Responding to recent planning applications which would amount to more than 1,100 new homes – largely on fields and farmland - in south Lancaster, Galgate Flood Action Group, South Lancaster Flood Action Group, Churchtown Flood Action Group and CLOUD have all said the risk this would cause to existing homes is unacceptable.

The groups have now come together to call for a halt to development until satisfactory flood prevention measures are in place. They say the cumulative effect of development, alongside evidence of ever more powerful and persistent storms, mean that flood risk will only increase.

Andrew Egerton, from South Lancaster Flood Action Group, said: “The recent flurry of planning applications, proposals and full applications amount to 1,193 houses.

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Floods in Galgate last year.

“These include Ward Field Farm, Galgate (68 houses), North Bailrigg Lane, Hala (680 houses), Pinewood Close, Scotforth (140 houses), Grab Lane, Lancaster (210 houses) and Scotforth Road, Lancaster (95 houses). This is a development disgrace and all have the potential to increase surface water run off and place additional pressure on drainage and sewage systems, many of which were designed in the nineteenth century.”

In Galgate, 160 homes were flooded following the storms in 2017.

Shaun Corkerry, of Galgate Flood Action Group, said: “Two years on from the flooding,in real terms Galgate is little better prepared than in 2017. Residents are worrying about the developments around the village and are waiting for it all to happen again.”

An £18m flood defence scheme proposal for Galgate was recently rejected by the Environment Agency because it is too costly.

Shaun added: “The proposed and actual developments happening around the village (at the moment principally that on Ward Field Farm and Chapel Lane) now cause all of us in vulnerable areas great concern.

“But being downstream of the new proposals for development in South Lancaster causes further alarm.

“People are concerned that creating impermeable surfaces where fields and natural drainage prevailed will cause water to go into the Conder, or one or all of the becks.”

Stephen Constantine, chair of CLOUD said: “Surely until satisfactory flood prevention measures are in place to mitigate existing known risks, it is unwise to support additional construction and associated road building which could make matters significantly worse.”
The groups have called for Lancaster City Council to extend the scope of its Climate Emergency declaration to ensure it protects communities from flooding.

In January 2019 Lancaster City Council declared a Climate Emergency which the groups say should have implications for development choices.

They said: “Emphasis was placed on increasing the efficiency of buildings, building solar and other renewable energy generating and storage plants, replacing the vehicle fleet with electric and/or hydrogen powered vehicles and switching to 100 per cent fossil-fuel-free energy.

“Environmental scientists at Lancaster University have stressed that climate change is undoubtedly making the flooding problem worse in our locality.

“There is compelling evidence of more intense and slow moving storms.

“For all these reasons there is surely a strong case for Lancaster City Council to extend the scope of its climate emergency declaration to include a thorough assessment of the additional measures now needed to protect existing communities from flooding, together with the adoption of robust flood protection standards for all new developments?”

Other points the groups raised were that little or no provision is made for protecting existing properties when these developments are being built.

Mr Corkerry said: “Like most Galgate residents I now greet heavy rain with apprehension and with one eye on the River Conder and the becks as they rise.

“It could all too easily happen here again.

“This wasn’t the first time our communities have flooded nor, unfortunately given the glacial rate of progress to mitigate flood risk, will it be the last.”

To get involved and for more information contact: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]

A bit more background from Galgate Flood Action Group

“Galgate residents and businesses have received no financial assistance from the Government and it is inexcusable and scandalous that some other areas have since received it since when we did not.

“In the aftermath of the floods we set up a flood action group, and the last two years have been challenging to say the least.

“By its nature, Galgate is vulnerable to flooding as it was built round the mills which provided the work.

“These were water powered initially and later used water for their processes and to dispose of the waste generated by them.

“Galgate is at risk from surface water flooding, run off from the M6 and A6 as well as flooding from Whitley Beck, the Conder and Ou Beck.

“With our very limited resource we have focussed on working with multiple agencies to prevent flooding wherever possible and to mitigate risks and improve our situation.

“We have had some success with getting water gullies cleaned out more often, and with getting repairs done to the 60 year old Conder flood defences.

“An early warning guage has been fitted on Whitely beck.

“A major step forward is the building of Beaver dams on Whitley Beck by the Lune Rivers Trust and partnering landowners -these slow the flow from the beck into Galgate .

“Our early warning systems are better and co-operation with agencies improved.

“On the down side, the Environment Agency has little money, and an £18m flood defence scheme proposal has recently been rejected.

“Repairs are often painfully slow.

“In real terms, though some of the factors that caused Galgate to flood in 2017 have been mitigated, and lessons have been learned, we are little better prepared than in 2017.”

Further reading and observations by the group of action groups - “Every time it rains the fear returns”

The legacy of the November 2017 floods will live on for many years to come.

Lancashire County Council’s report of the flooding that night stated that “With hindsight, it is surprising that a Major Emergency was not established”, if it had been organisations would have been able to “call on additional resources to help manage the incident and minimise the problems experienced”.

What happened on the night of 22/23 November 2017 was truly devastating for those directly affected, over 900 homes across Lancashire were flooded, critical access routes including the M6 and A6 were obstructed by flood water, a boat was deployed on Lentworth Drive, Scotforth.

The waters subsided, the clean up operation took many days to return transport routes back to normal, but for those whose homes flooded months of disruption ensued with people being displaced from their homes for over six months.

This is just the physical impact of flooding, long after the builders have gone the impact is still felt, every time it rains the fear returns, curtains twitch and weather services and river levels are constantly checked.

What follows flooding is a mental state that is always on edge.

Recent events in South Yorkshire and the Midlands have highlighted the national crisis that flooding presents, those affected there will benefit from a Government scheme where grants of £5,000 are made available to protect properties from future flooding, no such opportunity was given to our communities.

The ‘mitigation’ proposals and shortcomings and proposals for improvements Flood Action Groups (FLAG) have been formed by the communities in South Lancaster and Galgate.

The FLAGs provide a united front for the community to liaise with and pressure agencies to take action.

Both Galgate and South Lancaster FLAGs while having some positive dialogue are immensely frustrated by the lack of tangible and material progress to reduce flood risk to the community.

Andrew Egerton Chair of the South Lancaster FLAG says “it’s a glacial pace of progress, its taken two years for the Environment Agency to conceptualise a scheme to protect the community and conclude that it is unaffordable”.

The flood risk in South Lancaster and Galgate makes the last month’s deluge of scoping bids, developers brochures and planning applications very disturbing. South Lancaster communities have been working through their local flood action groups to try and improve their flood resilience.

These developments are only part of the story and should be seen alongside the long term expansion of Lancaster University and especially the building the university’s Health Innovation Campus (HIC) (now due for completion Spring 2020).

This drains into the Ou Beck and Burrow Beck.

Planning permission was granted for it prior to the November 2017 flooding on Burrow Beck in Hala and Scotforth and the Ou Beck which contributed to flooding in Galgate.

There was of course no reconsideration of the permission to assess whether additional mitigation measures might be needed.

Further surface water run off can also be expected from the new student residences on the old waterworks site opposite HIC.

In addition, in February 2019, planning permission was granted for 32 bungalows adjacent to the Church on Chapel Lane Galgate and work began in September. Applethwaites, the developers, promised that a soak away will deal with any run off.

As Tony Newton, Chapel Lane resident, said at the Planning Meeting in February 2019 which approved this development: “The tests (for the soak aways) were carried out in August/Sept 2017 which were dry months.

“Added to that soak aways don’t cope well when there is heavy rain and there is a high failure rate during floods as water can be delayed and delivered at the worst possible time.”

This does not instill confidence, as on the night of November 22 2017, water poured like a torrent off the motorway onto Langshaw Lane and the adjacent bungalow site flooding the field, Chapel Lane and the field below.

The combination of so much new or potential development means that maintaining flood resilience is reminiscent of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice waking up to the vision of cascading and seemingly uncontrollable water.

There is another darker type of flooding, flooding from the sewer network. There are places where the often nineteenth century sewers simply cannot cope with the amount of water being pushed into them, the result surcharging up from the drains.

Two developments along Bowerham Lane (37 pending and 25 being built) feed into the sewer system in one of these places.

Why? Because United Utilities cannot refuse a connection even at the spot where there is sewer flooding.