Row over Lancaster flood defence cash

The Morecambe MP has accused our local councils of dragging their feet over vital flood defences.

Friday, 18th March 2016, 12:14 pm
Updated Friday, 18th March 2016, 2:24 pm
The flooded electricity substation on Caton Road during the December 2015 floods.

David Morris claimed “our area is being left behind” after the Chancellor George Osborne announced a £700m funding package including flood-hit Cumbria and Yorkshire.

The MP said Lancaster has not yet received any government cash for better flood protection because a funding bid had not gone in.

But a councillor has accused him of using the Lancaster floods as “a political football”.

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Conservative Mr Morris said he was “extremely disappointed” at “the lack of proactive planning by our local district councils”.

He said: “Businesses and residents across the district have been calling for further defences on the River Lune since the December floods and in other areas where councils have been more proactive the projects have now received funding.

“I would urge the local councils to get their projects into government as soon as possible so we can ensure that the area gets the funding it needs for flood prevention.”

But Labour’s Coun Janice Hanson, deputy leader of Lancaster City Council, said: “This is a complicated scheme which requires a full understanding of the cause and nature of the December flooding.

“I’m sure Mr Morris would agree that it needs to be right and ensure it achieves the maximum protection and it is a shame he has chosen to use this as a political football when we should all be working together for the benefit of residents and businesses.”

Coun Hanson also said the council had been working with the Environment Agency on a Caton Road flood defence plan for the last 12 months but the floods had “provided an added impetus”.

“This would be built primarily on the city council’s land and would benefit one of the district’s key employment sites,” she said.

“The scheme is being led by the Environment Agency and we are working hard to identify funding.”

The scheme would help reduce the risk of flooding to the city’s electricity substation and seek to avoid a repeat of the catastrophic events in December, which left 60,000 homes and busineses without power and caused millions of pounds worth of damage to property.

The Environment Agency proposals for the east side of the river between the M6 and Skerton Weir would also help to protect businesses along Caton Road, many of which have still not re-opened almost two months on.

Mr Morris’ comments came after he asked a question in Parliament about the floods.

Rory Stewart, minister in the department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, replied: “Lancaster City Council, Lancashire County Council and the Environment Agency are currently developing a business case which will investigate the potential of a new scheme to reduce flood risk within the city of Lancaster.”

But Marcus Johnstone, cabinet member for the environment on Lancashire County Council, said: “The county council has not been involved in the flood protection scheme on the River Lune at the Caton Road industrial estate, which is being led by the Environment Agency.

“However we are heavily involved in investigations into the unprecedented floods that affected 115 communities across the county in December, to understand how the flooding occurred and how best we can work with other agencies to protect those communities in future. This is complex and difficult work and needs to be undertaken methodically to ensure that the most effective solutions are put in place.

“At the same time, we have successfully secured £5m of funding from central government to repair roads and bridges damaged in the floods and are making good progress on those projects.”

The Environment Agency has been asked for a comment but had not replied as we went to press.

Last month Andy Brown from the Environment Agency said: “We’re hoping to confirm this year whether we’ve got that funding package together and then it could be 18 months to two years before we’re on the ground for construction. We could be looking at between £7m to £9m worth of funding.”