Save The Ribble

A blog dedicated to preserving the beauty and delicate ecosystem of the River Ribble, and opposing the Riverworks 'vision' to build a barrage on our River and develop on our riverbanks, floodplains and green spaces, causing damage to wildlife and the environment and increasing the risk of flooding to our homes. Save the Ribble Campaign is not responsible for the content of external blogs or websites which link here.

Friday, June 30, 2006

River Ribble in Poetry and Literature - Service and Belloc in the Mud

Poet Robert Service was born in Preston, and I like to think he played in the River Ribble’s mud as a child. That’s what I think inspired his poem ‘Mud’:


Mud is Beauty in the making,
Mud is melody awaking;
Laughter, leafy whisperings,
Butterflies with rainbow wings;
Baby babble, lover's sighs,
Bobolink in lucent skies;
Ardours of heroic blood
All stem back to Matrix Mud.

Mud is mankind in the moulding,
Heaven's mystery unfolding;
Miracles of mighty men,
Raphael's brush and Shakespear's pen;
Sculpture, music, all we owe
Mozart, Michael Angelo;
Wonder, worship, dreaming spire,
Issue out of primal mire.

In the raw, red womb of Time
Man evolved from cosmic slime;
And our thaumaturgic day
Had its source in ooze and clay . . .
But I have not power to see
Such stupendous alchemy:
And in star-bright lily bud
Lo! I worship Mother Mud.

The people who back Riverworks don’t have any poetry in their souls, and cannot see the beauty, or the key importance to wildlife (and children) of the Ribble’s mud - lets not drown it, cover it with concrete, or impede it's journey to the Ribble Estuary!

A redshank enjoys the Ribble's Mud

And here is what Hilaire Belloc had to say about the Ribble:

"The sources of the Ribble are in a lonely place up in a corner of the hills where everything has strange shapes and where the rocks make one think of trolls. The great frozen Whernside stands up above it, and Ingleborough Hill, which is like no other hill in England, but like the flat-topped Mesas which you have in America, or (as those who have visited it tell me) like the flat hills of South Africa; and a little way off on the other side is Pen-y-ghent, or words to that effect. The little River Ribble rises under such enormous guardianship. It rises quite clean and single in the shape of a little spring upon the hillside, and too few people know it."

If you know of a reference from great literature or poetry to the River Ribble, please feel free to post it here!

By the way, on the subject of the Ribble's muds and silts, a great letter from C.P. Wash was published in today's Lancashire Evening Post:

He says

"The fact is ... that regardless of how far up river of the Special Protection Area and RAMSAR site a barrage might be situated, and regardless of whether it is a few metres high or several, or the incoming tide washes over the top or not, it would still create a barrier to the movement of silts down the river, and therefore reduce the silt-bound nutrients to the SPA/RAMSAR site that the tidal nature of the river currently replaces twice a day.

This would deplete this delicate ecosystem, and thus significantly damage an internationally protected bird habitat"

Keep those letters going in to the papers - if enough people speak up, perhaps the council will start to see what is blindingly obvious to everyone else!

Click here for more photographs of the Ribble

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Riverworks - Pub Debate Primer

It’s a warm, dreamy, summer afternoon, and you are resting your aching feet in a riverside pub after a pleasant ramble along the soft green banks of the River Ribble. You are nursing a pint of cask-conditioned real ale, appreciating the softness of your barstool, and the murmur of pleasant conversation with friends, when suddenly the topic of the Riverworks initiative rears it's ugly head!

Are you ready to put forward the pro-river arguments? Pour yourself a beer and read through this dry run of some of the arguments put forward by the acolytes of the Riverworks 'Cult of Concrete', along with the pro-Ribble responses.

Isn’t turning the river into a water sports park a good idea? - the Riverworks people say it will expand our range of leisure options which can't be a bad thing.

We have no objection to people taking boats on the Ribble, but we do object to keeping the river artificially at high tide, for a number of reasons. One is that it will drown the mud banks that many birds find their food in. It also means that long stretches of the riverbank will be covered with concrete to provide walkways and moorings for boats . It is hypocritical of the council to pretend this would expand leisure options when they are thinking about building new housing over 3 different sets of football pitches - at Vernons, Penwortham Holme and Frenchwood as part of the Riverworks proposals. These pitches provide leisure opportunities for hundreds of people all year round, as do local allotments that they are also talking about building over.

And do we really want power boats and jet skis on the Ribble? - today I saw 14 swans on the water by Avenham Park, heavy usage by boats would drive away this birdlife, and the wake would swamp their nests (if they can nest anywhere along banks encased in concrete).

OK - So the Ribble Barrage may affect wildlife near Preston - but the environmentally significant wildlife and the migratory birds in the Ribble Estuary are miles away.

The wildlife near Preston, Walton Le Dale and Penwortham is very significant to the people who live there and enjoy their access to the beautiful river and the fields around it as it is today. They don’t want their green areas covering with housing, roads and concrete. Fish like the Atlantic Salmon, which is an endangered species would find a barrage to be a major obstacle to getting up the river.
And anyway, building a barrage WOULD affect the estuary; The ecology of the estuary depends on the silts that are washed down the river. A barrage would disrupt this flow of silts and cause more and more damage every year to the crucial environment of the Ribble Estuary - at the moment there are 250,000 birds and a huge density of invertebrates in the mudflats that support them - cut off or restrict the flow of silts and this huge ecological resource would be lost forever.

But the council say that "this is a river which has lost it's identity" - we need a big marina to attract tourism to our area.

There are plenty of people who think our river is very beautiful - especially when the mudflats and rocky stretches are exposed - the Save The Ribble blog has published loads of local people's photographs that show just how beautiful it is. If the council tried to promote the River properly instead of denigrating it, a whole range of new tourists could come - people interested in Lancashire's Civil War heritage, the Vikings, the Romans and all the other history of the area, as well as people interested in the opportunities to walk and cycle in the green areas so close to the city centre. Type 'River Ribble' into Preston Councils' tourism website search engine and you come up with nothing. The council has done nothing to promote this beautiful river - this couldn't be connected with their plans to encase it in concrete could it? Preston already has a marina on the docks - and they can't even manage that - it is full of blue-green algae and stinks during hot weather - if they build a barrage, our whole river could end up like this.

Yeah, but a Ribble barrage is going to protect us from floods isn’t it.

The barrage in the Riverworks proposals is not being specifically designed as a flood defence barrier - it has a different job, which is to raise the level of the river to a permanent high-tide level. A flood defence would be in a different place and be a different design. The barrage will increase the risk of tidal flooding to those downriver from it, as it will displace the incoming tide sideways. Also because silts will accumulate on the riverbed upriver from the barrage, it will reduce the capacity of the river to carry off rainwater when it is in spate and increase the risk of flooding to upriver areas - including the new housing they want to build in it’s floodplain. Raising the average level of the river will also have the effect of raising the level of ground-water beneath housing that is near the river - with all kinds of dangerous effects given that much of this land was formerly marshland. The Welsh Assembly is having to pay £20 million a year to dredge the silts from Cardiff bay and pump out the rising ground waters since they built the Cardiff bay barrage - who will foot the bill for the dredging and pumping necessitated by the Ribble Barrage?

But this is all just ideas - it isn’t really going to happen anyway, so why are you making so much fuss?

The Cardiff Bay barrage started off as some planners whim, but ended up being built. We think there is growing interest from developers and building firms behind the scenes in these Riverworks ideas that is giving a lot of impetus to driving them forward, despite the opposition expressed by local people. There has already been large amounts of council time and money spent dreaming up and promoting these ideas, and they want to spend a considerable amount more on feasibility studies - this is our money and should not be being spent on ideas that are not wanted by local people.

The council should have asked the people of Preston and South Ribble what they wanted BEFORE making these Riverworks proposals - we think ordinary people would have come up with a very different set of priorities than turning the River into a Power-boat Playground. The people who live downriver and upriver whose homes could be affected by these proposals will want to have their say too, people at Freckleton and at Ribchester for example. Freckleton Parish Council has voted to strongly oppose any barrage plan.

The best time to campaign to stop the barrage and housing proposals, and defend our sports fields and allotments is now, before the Riverworks proposals gather too much momentum and money behind them and become unstoppable. We are having some success - we helped persuade the National Lottery not to back these ideas because of the high level of local opposition, and we are beginning to make local councillors listen - but it will take a lot more campaigning before we change the council’s mind.

OK OK - you’ve convinced me - how do I join the campaign?

Easy! email or write to Save The Ribble Campaign PO Box 1104 Penwortham Preston PR2 0DB - and welcome to the Save The Ribble Campaign! You can email our blogs web address to your friends and workmates, and you can print off our leaflet and window poster to show your mates and put it up in your window or on your work noticeboard - spread the word! (And buy me another pint - my throat's gone dry!)


Labels: , , , , , , ,

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Save The Ribble Blog Updates

Our blog is getting more successful every day, and we keep trying to improve the blog to make the reader's experience better.

If you look at the 'links' section on the right hand side of the blog, you can now download our leaflet and window poster. These posters have been making a big impression in some parts of Preston - I recently visited the 'Fortune House' Chinese takeaway at the bottom of Fishergate Hill, the car in front of me had a 'Save The Ribble' poster in the back window! Download your own poster, put it in your house window, your car window, or on your work noticeboard and help spread the word!

Other changes include a link to our 'site feed' - I'm not sure exactly how this works, but people who do understand it can use it to get Save The Ribble posts as soon as they are posted - it can also be used to feed into blog aggregators.

Our blog is very popular with other bloggers - no less than 64 other blogs have posted links here, putting us in the top 40,000 blogs on Technorati's rankings - this doesn't sound that impressive, until you realise that there are 1.4million blogs on their list!

Another innovation is the set of links to examples of the History of The Ribble, from very recent events, such as the gallant canoeists who have been canoeing down from Kendal to Manchester to raise money for charity - they found that the Ribble link had clearly not been designed for kayaks - they found it very difficult to manouvre through the locks. They got a very hospitable reception from regulars at the 'Cotty Brook' and then they successfully crossed the river, finding the incoming tidal bore to be a boon when they surfed it five miles up the River Douglas.

There's a link to the history of the 'Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints', who held their famous baptisms on a stony bank of the Ribble - an area that is still visited by Mormons today, and that would be submerged if the Riverworks proposals are ever implemented.

Other interesting bits of Ribble History include the key role played by the river during the English Civil War. Cromwell battled with the Scottish Royalists driving them down from Church St to the Ribble. An interesting part of this story is about how Hamilton, leader of the Scots, was forced to swim for his life across the River to Penwortham Holme, which at the time was an island - this event is not even commemorated with a plaque.

York celebrates it's heritage, and it's Viking links, Preston ignores these, despite the enormous significance of the Cuerdale Hoard - which shows how the whole of the Ribble Valley was a vital area for Vikings, and possibly a staging post for an aborted attempt to re-invade Dublin.

The story of the Roman settlement at Ribchester is really interesting too, as are the stories of the Setantii and Brigantes, the original ancient celtic inhabitants of the region who worshipped the river ribble as a goddess, with their reverence for nature, the ideas in the Riverworks proposals would seem like the worst kind of blasphemy to this ancient culture.

Preston City Council could be emphasising some of the amazing history of the River Ribble as a way to promote it, (any other city would have set up a 'Civil War Trail years ago), but instead seem more intent on turning it into a dead, sterile area, with banks encased in concrete, the life-giving tides blocked by their barrage and the beautiful fields that line it's banks turned into housing estates, shopping arcades and car parks.

We are always open to suggestions about how we could improve the blog further, for suggestions for articles (or even actual articles), for your points of view and your ideas. If you have a website you think we should link to let us know, please feel free to post them as comments below!

PS You may be wondering what the lists of words are at the bottom of every article.
These are 'technorati tags' that some people use to navigate between blogs, they help people find articles that are relevant to their area of interest - for example, clicking on 'setantii' would take you to a list of all the other posts that have been tagged 'setantii' (if there are any- which there aren't - another first for the Save The Ribble blog!).

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Concrete Concrete Everywhere - The Lower Brockholes Quarry

The sheer quantity of concrete that is to be poured (or sprayed) over some of the most beautiful parts of Preston and South Ribble, if the instigators of the Riverworks Initiative get their way, was revealed today.

This article in the Lancashire Evening Post gives details of a planning application by Hargreaves Ash Marketing to extract millions of tons of sand and gravel from a site in the Fishwick area next to the Ribble - much of it intended for the Riverworks Project.

The company plan to take 32 lorryloads of sand and gravel from the site, which borders Moor Nook, every day for 8 years - that is a hell of a lot of concrete, much of it destined to cover valued allotments, football pitches and beautiful green belt land, in order to fulfil the warped dreams of the architects of Riverworks, who want to build a barrage across the river, and over 4000 houses and businesses in the floodplain.

Councillor Albert Richardson seems to have asked a reasonably sensible question about the wisdom of such work so close to our ecologically vital River Ribble, and was given a response in typical Preston Planning Department language, the development will, apparently, "help to diversify the ecological values".

Lets hope Lancashire County Council, the authority with the final say in this matter, give this particular planning application the full searching scrutiny it deserves.


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Threat to Frenchwood Recreation Ground

Frenchwood Recreation Ground under threat?

Preston City Council's Composite Masterplan, republished on the blogsite on Views from the Riverbank of a Genuinely Sustainable Future, shows that land north of the river, in Preston itself, is being considered for development. If you look closely at the Taylor Young plan you can see the orange "New housing" area covering most of Frenchwood Recreation Ground from close to the Old Tram Bridge to the Esplanade.

Development here would not only destroy a fine green space below Frenchwood Knoll but it would build over very popular playing fields used by amateur league soccer teams. This is at a time when greater participation in sport is being encouraged for health reasons by Sport England; when the UK is to host the Olympics in 2012; when many health workers and parents are concerned about child (and adult) obesity; and in Preston, the home of the National Football Museum. The increase in traffic along the Boulevard and Malvern Avenue to the new estate would mean more congestion and accidents at the bottleneck junction of London Road and Ashworth Grove (unless the riverside path is opened up for car traffic through Avenham Park? I guess nothing is sacred in Riverworks).

I suspect that very few people in Preston, including councillors, are aware of this suggested plan but you can see it clearly on the map. Avenhamites, Frenchwooders and footballers unite!

Aidan T-B

Riverworks "Riverside East" document (05) states that the 'development of Riverside East' will be 'providing a mix of public open space (162 hectares), commercial office uses at the M6 Gateway and small scale residential development'.

Again building developments are being dressed up as "providing open space" - open space which already exists and would evidently be reduced by building on it.

The proposals for this area are explicitly linked to the barrage scheme in that 'It will offer water-based recreation pursuits, enabled and supported by the barrage'. This water-based activity is intended to take place on the river and at Brockholes quarry, currently the subject of controversy as the developers extracting gravel from Brockholes initially agreed to then pass on the site to Lancashire Wildlife Trust for nature conservation, but now the site is being considered for use as a water-sports park connected to the river instead...
The 'establishment and formalisation of leisure infrastructure such as moorings, river walkways' would also destroy the riverbank habitat all the way to 'the former Brockholes Quarry site'...
Clearly Riverworks' proposals which are of great concern to local residents also include their proposed developments of East Preston.

Labels: ,

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Allotments: Ten Reasons Why Preston City Council Should Not Build Over Them

The allotments near Penwortham Holme are under threat from the Preston City Council Riverworks Initiative - which includes proposals to build over 4000 houses in this area. The area threatened by this huge housing estate also includes popular land used by local amateur football leagues and some rather amazing beautiful green space, only 10 minutes walk from the City Centre. This area also happens to be greenbelt and in the RIbble floodplain.

Here is a list of 10 good reasons why the allotments should stay, and Riverworks housing ideas should be scrapped.

1. Growing your own vegetables on an allotment has huge health and social benefits - it provides exercise, occupation and nutrition and is being promoted by local health authorities - they are a place where you can grow organic food that you can be truly confident IS fully organic.

2. There is a national shortage of allotments, because greedy property developers are building all over them.

3. The Penwortham Holme allotments are part of a ‘green corridor’ that supports a huge variety of wildlife along the banks of the Ribble - allotments are key to preserving biodiversity, both locally and nationally.

4. People of all backgrounds, ages and ethnicities are using the Penwortham Holme allotments - it is a place where people are meeting, chatting, helping each other out, and becoming a truly diverse community.

5. For many city dwellers, including many children who don’t have gardens, an allotment is the only opportunity to connect with nature, get out in the fresh air, and learn about how to grow things and healthy eating.

6. Preston City Council has recently spent £thousands on cleaning up the Penwotham Holme site and bringing it back into full use.

7. Allotments are nicer to look at than a stale suburban housing estate, and Preston and South Ribble both have a housing surplus already.

8. Allotments recycle virtually everything you could imagine, packaging becomes seed trays and bird-scarers, food waste becomes compost, old bits of timber become sheds, walkways or fencing.

9. There have been allotments at Penwortham Holme since 1913. In 1919, there were 1.5 million allotments nationally, one plot for every five families, the ‘Land Settlement Facilities Act’ made it clear that all members of the community were eligible to take up allotment gardening. In 1996 there were 33 000 acres of allotments, representing a major decline from the war years and a decline of 43% between 1970 and 1996.

10. Allotments are a natural flood defence - they absorb rain water, while housing estates, roads and car parks do not!

(Thanks to allotment keeper Elaine, whose excellent article I have based this list on)

Read more about the Penwotham Holme Allotments here: Weekend on the allotment and here: Further Tales and Pictures from the Riverbank and Allotments

Here's a link to the National Association of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners and the Office of the Deputy Prime Ministers Publication Allotments - A Plot Holder's Guide.

Labels: ,

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Barrage of Anagrams

Having read Phil Widdows blog, I decided to try out his 'Anagram Code' to find out the hidden truths that anagrams can reveal - I typed in "Preston City Council Riverworks Initiative" to an anagram generator and got "It is not very realistic, now cock it up in river" and "Vicious rotten politicians wreck tiny river", meanwhile"Ribble Tidal Barrage Scheme" got "I'm large, dire babblers cheat" and "Debacle - this barrier gamble"...

Meanwhile 'Save The Ribble Campaigner' translates as 'I'm this brave, capable Green'.

You can read more about our opposition to the Ribble Barrage here:
The Pro-Ribble Response to the Riverworks proposals

and here:
The dangers of the Riverworks Barrage and Flood Plain Housing Ideas

Friday, June 16, 2006

Lottery Bids Fail - Community Involvement is the Key to the Future

Preston City Council's bids to the Big Lottery Living Landmarks Fund to help further the Ribble Barrage and Green Belt building development proposals have failed to progress to the next stage.

As the Lottery Fund body sets a basic requirement that all successful bids must demonstrate community support and involvement, all of your letters to the Lottery Fund have clearly had an impact - well done, and thankyou, all of you.
Hopefully now PCC will sit down and talk to local people, other councils along the Ribble corridor, and environmental organisations with a vested interest in the Ribble basin, and work out a strategy for the future of this internationally important ecosystem which is truly sustainable, and benefits people and the environment, for now and for future generations.

As Preston City Council have announced they have adopted the Statement of Community Involvement in April 2006, meaning to involve the local community in formulating the Local Development Framework and in determining planning applications, we are now hoping that this will indeed be the case.
We are looking forward to hearing from Preston City Council that they will be consulting local residents and all interested parties along the Ribble corridor about our common future ...

Keep sending in your fantastic and innovative ideas for a sustainable future for the Ribble environment, including your ideas for ecotourism, which respect and preserve this unique ecosystem, and the quality of life of our local communities
- see Views from the Riverbank of a Genuinely Sustainable Future

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Phil Widdows Shoots From The Lip - Riverworks is "Bloated and Bonkers"

Our blog is generating a lot of heated debate about the housing and barrage elements of the Riverworks proposals, and attracting new readers all the time.

One such new reader is Phil Widdows, the Lancashire Evening
Post's opinion columnist, who has his own blog where he
posts personal opinions, that whether you agree with them or not, are entertaining and forthright: Shooting from the Lip.

"rather earnest protesters getting hot, bothered and holier than thou about the idea of building a barrage across the River Ribble" - (How Phil Widdows sees us!)

Here is what he has to say on his blog about Save The
article Riverworks, the Housing Sums That Don't Add Up:

Sold Up The River?

The rather earnest protesters getting hot, bothered and holier than thou about the idea of building a barrage across the River Ribble to turn what is too often a dribble into a useable leisure facility ("but won't anyone think of the little birdies?!?") have finally hit on something that deserves serious answers.

At their blog they point to all the stuff other than the barrage itself - including the jolly wheeze of building houses and commercial property on what is and will be a
flood plain - included in the bloated and bonkers Riverworks scheme and ask, if Preston and South Ribble have an official oversupply of housing, why is the council
spending money on feasibility studies, and asking for much more money from the National Lottery to push these ideas forward?

They then add:

One thing is clear, the Riverworks housing and barrage proposals are ideas that are being driven by the potential profits of developers, rather than by the wishes or needs of residents of Preston and South Ribble.

Whether the barrage itself is a good idea or not is up for debate (it's far too expensive and will never get built, but that needn't spoil a good fight). What must not be allowed to happen is for Preston City Council to spend public money on studies to test the feasibility of a housing scheme which, under its own planning policy, stands as much chance of coming to reality as Togo have of winning the World Cup.

Step carefully, councillors, or the barrage could quickly turn into a very different kind of "water gate" to the one you expect...

As Deep Throat (no, not that one) said ... "Follow the money".

Phil Widdows is right to be pointing out the mess of contradictions the council is getting itself into - here is a link to the council policy on housing development that is being blatantly ignored by supporters of Riverworks in the council: Draft SPG9

This policy states clearly:
The tightened control rules out the building of new houses on “greenfield” land and cuts back the number of houses to be approved on “brownfield” land.
and limits the number of new houses that can be built in Preston to just 180 a year until 2016.

It states
An oversupply will contravene the policies of both the Regional Plan and the Lancashire Structure Plan

Given the clarity of this policy, how do we explain the enthusiasm of so many people at the Council to build 4000 houses in this area?

We say it is time for Preston's council officers to start listening to their own council policies, and more importantly, to the views of Preston people, who are becoming angrier at the Riverworks housing and barrage ideas every day.

We will carry on asking the council awkward questions - the 350,000 birds in the Ribble Estuary ARE important, as are the people who live near the river, whose homes would be at increased risk of flooding if the barrage were to cause the water table beneath them to rise.

One thing is clear - blogging is working - the council can no longer get away with weasel-worded hype and every detail of the Riverworks proposals is now beginning to be carefully scrutinised by people who care about the River Ribble, it's people and it's environment.

Blogging reaches the places other campaigning methods cannot go!

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Views from the Riverbank of a Genuinely Sustainable Future

Verdant pastures and woodlands a few minutes walk from Preston City Centre

Preston City Council's "Composite Masterplan": a vision or a nightmare for our local, national and international environment?
This "masterplan" shows the so-called "Central Park" building development on a large proportion of the South Ribble Green Belt. The green corridor running roughly south from the river is Preston Junction Nature Reserve, which would be hemmed in by the 4,ooo houses, retail park and industrial estate (the pink, blue, and brown sections on the map) proposed for this area, with the necessary roads and infrastructure. All of this would be built on what is currently a fantastically diverse green belt area, including meadows, woodlands, and amateur league football fields. The remaining section of Green Belt opposite Avenham & Miller Parks is ear-marked for conversion into a formal park area, which would offer a much less diverse habitat for wildlife and for people than the area currently offers to communities both sides of the Ribble, and visitors to the area.
As you can see, along to the left, all the allotments for this area and the remaining football fields on Penwortham Holme also figure in this "masterplan" for potential development.

It is clear that reducing this area's green spaces with housing and business developments, reducing the green belt, diverse wildlife habitats, our local amenities, and floodplain provision of this area will NOT be either "creating a sustainable community" or "providing us with quality open space" as the Riverworks documents claim!

Local people, and local Councils such as Fylde Borough Council, envisage a future for ourselves and the Ribble which is truly sustainable.

Riverside residents have been sending in their ideas for an alternative vision to the Riverworks barrage and Green Belt housing development for the future of the Ribble and local Green Belt.

Here are a few tasters...

'As the Ribble and Green Belt are wildlife corridors, and are home to the nationally-significant Ribble Way and the Lancashire Coastal path (as well as home to the internationally important and protected Ribble itself!), why not build wildlife bridges across the roads which cut through the area, such as Liverpool Road and London Road?
These would provide safer migratory routes for wildlife, safer crossing for us bipeds, and create a fantastic and innovative vision - both literally and for the future - and really put Preston and the Ribble on the map.
After all, we already have one - the disused railway bridge which runs from Preston Junction Nature Reserve into Avenham & Miller Park has been reclaimed by grasses and small shrubs - and even Bee Orchids - and provides a wildlife bridge between the Parks in Preston and the Nature Reserve in Penwortham - and great access for people to the countryside area from the Preston side, which is exactly why this bridge has a footpath on it: the Victorian planners insisted that a footpath be included on this bridge to allow access from the Parks to the countryside for the people of Preston.

Wildlife Bridges are an innovative, stunning, and sustainable development.

It would be another great marketing strategy for Tourism to designate the whole of the South bank Green Belt a Nature Reserve, rather confining the central section along the disused railway line. This would preserve this area's own significant ecosystem for future generations, and officially complement the environmental standing of the area in terms of eco-tourism that the Ribble already offers.
How many other cities can boast of having an internationally important ecosystem running through it? Add to this a central Nature Reserve and put Preston on the map as the First Green City of the North West instead of just aiming to be the 3rd City - which Preston already is, of course.
I understand Lancashire County Council wanted to declare this Green Belt a Country Park some years ago but some of the land being owned by different organisations made this difficult... I'm sure with the will to do so, the "Ribbleside Nature Reserve" could become a reality - if the will exists to build housing on most of it then surely the different ownerships aren't an insurmountable problem.'

Jane, Middleforth

‘Ribble Valley Country Park
We need a positive vision for the lower Ribble Valley. I'd like to see a Country Park established like the very successful Mersey Valley Park (see ).

The Mersey Valley Country Park involves different authorities along the Mersey valley from Stockport to the Manchester Ship Canal working together. There's a Countryside Warden Service which organises community events, an eco-centre, nature reserves, education for local schools and community groups as well as managing wildlife conservation, angling, guided walks, pond dipping and other events. It works really well and it has turned the poor, polluted Mersey valley into a community and environmental asset enjoyed and appreciated by many.

The Chorlton Water Park also acts as an eco-tourism destination for canoeing, angling, windsurfing and pond dipping. It won a Green Flag Award in 2005/6. In the Ribble valley the Brockholes sand and gravel quarry will soon be released as a bird and wildlife reserve but further quarrying upstream might eventually be used as a water park. The Ribble Way long distance footpath passes through the Ribble valley area under threat by Riverworks. If a country park was set up, the Ribble Way could be the spine of a network of paths and bridleways. This could turn the lower Ribble valley into a regional eco-tourism destination.

River valley based country parks are successful elsewhere: Ferry Meadows in the Nene valley, near Peterborough, and the network of parks in Tameside, especially the Medlock Valley and Daisy Nook Country Park (see ). The Irwell valley, which also accommodates the private East Lancashire Railway, is the site of a linear public art and sculpture trail (see: ) The trail passes through another attractive country park at Clifton
(see: ).

In the Ribble valley one of the greatest treasure troves in English history was found at Cuerdale (see: ) How about a discreet piece of public art, like those in the Irwell valley, at the site?

The potential for our valley to continue to be a peaceful, environmentally-sensitive and wildlife rich area is great if we share a more positive vision than the narrow, short term one of the Riverworks proposals.’

Aidan Turner-Bishop

‘The recently published church report "Faithful Cities" which is available from has many interesting things to say about urban regeneration and recommends among other things active concern for the natural environment and a people centred approach: Most relevant to Preston and the Ribblle is the following paragraph on P.64
While some UK cities, such as Manchester and Birmingham have begun to provide city centre spaces which have some of these qualities, in the main we continue to allow developers to grab the best of land close to water. A trip down the Thames from the Tower of London to the Thames Barrier and beyond illustrates how little of regenerated Docklands riverside has been left for public space: where there is public space, it appears neither to have received adequate investment nor to have been designed to serve the needs of new local communities. It seems to bear witness to a model of regeneration in which the powerful forces of commerce sideline the needs of local people if they do not generate economic returns.
6.62 The attraction of building by water has meant that land close to canal banks, urban rivers like the Irwell between Manchester and Salford and the Aire in Leeds are not seen as potentially attractive public open space but as a development opportunity. We have something to learn from our European neighbours and cities like San Antonio, Texas about a proper balance between commercial pressures and the creation of good cities, which provide spaces that lift the human spirit.
Enough here to convince me that our religious duty and calling is to speak up load against the money driven plan to dam(n) our river!’
Greg Smith, Broadgate

Further Tales and Pictures from the Riverbank and the Allotments

More local residents have been sending in their photos and concerns.
These beautiful photos are by John of Avenham, whose comments follow...

Cat taking on more than it can chew? The Geese seem unconcerned!

Railbridge at high tide from Avenham & Miller Park

Cormorant on the Ribble

‘I find the idea of transforming a peaceful riverbank environment (so near to our city) into a noisy, polluted, cash-grabbing scheme criminally shallow. As usual, a panel/committee of ignorant, self-centred numpties have created these visions. All this serves is corporate back slapping without thinking about anything else. For a start, the river is a special spot for people: it's quiet. And further downstream there's a delicate eco-system that hosts uncommon wading birds. As a result of more pollution YOU'LL END UP WITH NO BIRDS and will be the proud creators of discarded and sterile non-place, punctuated with trouble.’
John Robertson,
Avenham resident for years.

Elaine, an allotment holder, shares all allotment holders' concerns about the apparent threat to all the allotments on the Penwortham side of the Ribble by ideas for new housing developments shown on Preston City Council's "composite masterplan":

'I am seriously concerned that the proposed development threatens our allotment site. At 139 plots Penwortham Holme West is one of the largest allotment sites in Preston and also one of the oldest. There has been allotments on this site since circa 1913. Our site has a rich and valuable heritage and history. And it is not just Penwortham Holme West which would be affected but the allotment site at Penwortham Holme East as well.

The health and social benefits of allotments and of gardening and growing your own vegetables are well known. Promotion of these benefits has finally being given support and is being widely advertised by government, local and health authorities. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has endorsed its support of allotment gardening and provision of allotment sites. Thanks to short-sited and commercially orientated decisions of many of our local authorities and the depredations of property developers many allotment sites have been sold off and built on. Once these sites go they are lost forever. Currently there is a national shortage of allotments and increased awareness of the value of sites.

Penwortham Holme allotments themselves were threatened by development when South Ribble Council proposed to build a ‘park and ride’ on the site. Following a full public enquiry in 1996, the proposals were resoundingly rejected. At the time of enquiry, Preston City Council raised formal objections! The Inspector’s report cited the importance of the allotments in terms of providing a green corridor and the rich variety of wildlife the allotments have supported.

In my 6 years as a plot holder I have never ceased to marvel at the rich diversity of wildlife and plants that the site supports. The site supports a multitude of birdlife including hawks, finches, and the ubiquitous robins, bats, toads and frogs, ducks, weasels, rabbits, mice and voles (not to mention our allotment cat). The fact that this site and its infrastructure has been used for allotment growing over such a long and continuous period has allowed plant and wildlife unique opportunities to thrive and develop alongside the tenants, and allotment growing gives tenants a unique opportunity to observe it.

It is also a thriving social community – there can be few places where people of all backgrounds, ethnicity, religions and ages mix on a day to day communal basis. The social aspects and the diversity and richness of allotment life cannot be over emphasized. For many tenants with no garden at home, the allotment is the only regular opportunity of connecting with nature, of gardening and of getting out in the fresh air in a rural environment. Plots are not just for vegetable production, but are also used for social, health, and leisure purposes by tenants and their families.

Preston City Council has recently spent thousands of pounds clearing up and bringing parts of the site that were neglected, overgrown and impossible to let back in to use. Thanks to the unstinting efforts of our Site Secretary, our site is currently fully tenanted and we have a waiting list. The tenancy profile of the plot has changed markedly and many of our tenants are women and families whose children are reaping the educational and health benefits of growing and eating vegetables and understanding the link between nature, growing and producing food and healthy eating. It therefore beggars belief that the same Council that has devoted time and resources to regenerating the site now finds that it is expendable – especially when the publicity for the proposed Riverworks projects cites social and environmental benefits as a motivation for the development. I am deeply concerned that our allotments may be under threat. It is not just current tenants who could be affected but future generations who would be deprived of a unique and valuable opportunity. Allotments are a priceless and irreplaceable community asset.'


Allotments by the Ribble

Keep sending in your views, and your alternative visions for the future of the Ribble and Green Belt environment.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Riverworks - The Housing Sums That Don't Add Up

The Riverworks proposals put forward by Preston City Council include the idea of building over 4000 houses on the South Bank of the River Ribble - on land opposite Broadgate which is currently green fields, allotments and amateur league football pitches - land that is popular green belt land, and in the flood plain of the river.

You might think that the idea of building housing in such a beautiful area must be a response to pressing need, and that after extensive searching, there are no alternative brownfield sites, or places that are not in the floodplain to build this housing.

I was surprised therefore to read in yesterday's 'Preston and Leyland Citizen' in the front page article about the idea of building housing on a patch of land in Fulwood that
"Phil Davies, assistant director of planning said residential developments would not be permitted as the city already had enough housing."

A few days ago, I published details of another patch of land, The Hulmes Mill site in Leyland which will not have housing built on it either as there is
"an oversupply of housing in the South Ribble area"

Lets get this straight - Preston City Council think there is 'enough' housing in Preston, and South Ribble Council think there is an 'oversupply' of housing in South Ribble - so why on earth do the Riverworks proposals suggest building 4000 houses?

Where exactly did these ideas come from? These housing proposals are clearly neither wanted, nor needed, by Preston residents, so how did they come to be included in Riverworks? Who suggested it, and why is the council spending money on feasibility studies, and asking for much more money from the national lottery to push these ideas forward?

The Save The Ribble campaign will be working hard to find out the answers to these questions.

One thing is clear, the Riverworks housing and barrage proposals are ideas that are being driven by the potential profits of developers, rather than by the wishes or needs of residents of Preston and South Ribble.


Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Renowned Environmentalists Express Concerns about Barrage Proposals

Sir David Attenborough has written to us saying that he well understands our concerns about the threat to the Ribble.

Sir David’s most recent BBC TV series made a clear argument that evidence of climate change is now indisputable. In “The State of the Planet” he echoes our concerns when he states:

‘The future of Life on Earth depends on our ability to take action. Many individuals are doing what they can, but real success can only come if there is a change in our societies and our economies, and in our politics. I have been lucky enough in my lifetime to see some of the greatest spectacles that the natural world has to offer. Surely we have a responsibility to leave for future generations a planet that is healthy and inhabitable by all species.’

Professor John Whitelegg, environmentalist and sustainability expert, who recently presented a lecture at UCLAN, has lent his support to the Save the Ribble Campaign and has stated categorically that he ‘would not support a tidal barrage’.

Likewise, Dr Ron Freethy, Communications, Environmental and Tourism consultant, has expressed concerns about the barrage proposal.

One of the consequences of global warming and climate change is the likely rise in sea levels over the coming years and decades. Fragile ecosystems such as the Ribble are already vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and low lying flood plain areas will be at increased risk of flooding as sea levels rise. Building a barrage on the Ribble will exacerbate these risks at a time when we should be considering ways to protect our environment from the effects of global warming: a barrage on the Ribble will increase flood risk both sides of the barrage, and deplete our natural and sustainable sea defences that the mudflats and salt marsh of the estuary provide.

The Environment Agency is warning against building on floodplain as this puts ‘new development at risk from flooding or [is] likely to exacerbate flooding elsewhere’ which alone should prohibit the Riverworks housing and business building development proposals on both Preston and South Ribble flood plain.

In addition, this so called ‘Central Park’ building development, alongside those earmarked for Frenchwood and Fishwick Bottoms, will result in the loss of a broad range of natural habitats which support diverse wildlife species. Once our Green Belt is developed and built on it will be lost forever.

At the Save The Ribble Campaign, we will continue to do as much as we can to protect our local environment, and we believe that success will only be achieved when City planners embrace a new vision for the future of our area: one which compliments and enhances our natural environment in a way that is sustainable for future generations and supports the habitats of all species.

Monday, June 05, 2006

City Councillor promises that residents will be consulted on project to build a barrage across the Ribble – But will this be enough?

Save the Ribble Campaign welcomes the recent statement from Preston Councillor, Jack Davenport, who represents Riversway, that ward councillors would be arranging public consultation in addition to anything organised by the (City) Council (LEP 31/5/06).

Councillor Davenport stated: ‘We don’t want a situation where residents find one day something is happening and they did not have the opportunity to speak out……we’ve got to do it in a fair and balanced way for both sides. We hope we can impact on what they are proposing. We want to affect the proposal before it goes forward so that we have got a proposal that’s more in line with what people want.’

Save the Ribble Campaign is pleased that some thought is now being given to the process of consultation on the Riverworks proposals and are fully supportive of the view that residents should be given the full facts about all aspects of the Riverworks options, including their potential consequences.

However, we also believe that meaningful consultation on the Riverworks proposals has to be inclusive of all the communities affected by the options under consideration and not just residents of particular areas of Preston and South Ribble. The Central Park building development will have an impact on Walton-le-Dale aswell as Penwortham, and the barrage option will affect all communities along the Ribble corridor, from the Fylde and up to Ribchester and beyond.

There are also very significant environmental concerns which are beyond the scope of a residents consultation and which will require a full environmental impact assessment, and full consultation with concerned environmental groups (such as RSPB, Fisheries and other wildlife groups) before decisions are taken to progress these options any further. Residents views are only part of the issue.

Save the Ribble Campaign believes that residents’ consultation will require the input of other neighbouring authorities. Obtaining a meaningful response from residents will of course also depend on how they are consulted and what questions they are asked. We believe that in these consultation processes it is important that all affected residents are given opportunity to express views on the specific options contained in Riverworks rather than the "vision" as a whole as it is likely that some options may have more support from residents than other options - in particular residents who oppose the idea of a barrage may well be supportive of other ideas such as re-instating the canal.

"The care of rivers is not a question of rivers, but of the human heart" Tanako Shozo Save The Ribble Logo