Riversway Riverworks Consultation - Ignoring the Questions That Most Concern Residents
The Labour Party in Riversway, a Preston ward that borders the River Ribble has launched a long awaited 'consultation' into one aspect of the Riverworks proposals.
This is clearly a response to the issues raised by the 'Save The Ribble' Campaign and local residents around the dangers of a Ribble Barrage, and of a huge housing development in the Ribble's floodplain.
The councillors admit that
"The development will have a major impact on Preston, in particular on local residents living close to, or even on the River Ribble itself".They say that
"Your local Labour Councillors will support and only support the views of our constituents. We will do this by presenting you with the facts and letting your views guide us. Contrary to scaremongering from some quarters, no decision has been made yet"
1. The Save The Ribble Campaign has not been 'scaremongering' - all the facts we have presented about Riverworks come from Preston City Council's and the City Vision Boards own publications. We challenge the councillors to find a single post on this blog that asserts that any decision has yet been made. What we are objecting to is that the council is even THINKING about such patently stupid, irresponsible and dangerous ideas as a barrage or a floodplain housing development.
2. The consultation they have released misses the point - it concentrates solely on development proposals for the docks - which were (we are told) the subject matter of the recent pre-feasiblity study undertaken for the Vision Board, and ignores the concerns that are uppermost in local residents minds, about the barrage and the greenbelt housing ideas - instead of addressing these issues, our councillors have skirted round them, promising more consultation at some undetermined point in the future, even though the barrage and the housing proposals are the issues that will obviously have the most "impact on Preston, in particular on local residents living close to, or even on the River Ribble itself".
3. We have NOT been 'presented with the facts' - Save The Ribble asked to see this pre-feasibility study when it was first published weeks and weeks ago - but we were not allowed to see it, even when we used the Freedom of Information Act. The report is still being kept secret from local people (although we have been assured by those that belong to the exclusive group of those the council trusts enough to see it that there is 'nothing contraversial' in it)
We therefore have the farcical situation where local councillors are trying to consult local residents on an issue where we are not even being allowed by the council to read their report concerning the very proposals we are being consulted about!
Nor does the consultation document tell us anything about what is actually being proposed for the docks - we residents are being asked to make our comments entirely in the dark - I am sure if our councillors were asked for their opinion, they would demand the fullest information possible, and find it unacceptable to have such important information withheld from them.
If a more comprehensive consultation on the Riverworks proposals had been published, the council would quickly learn that local people do not want a barrage or a huge housing development in our green belt. They could then save themselves the expense of commissioning any further studies into these aspects of their proposals and put residents minds at rest, by dropping them from the 'Riverworks' package. We wonder whether this is why we have not been asked these questions.
It is nice to be 'consulted' - but next time, give us the information we need, and ask us the right questions, otherwise people will suspect that the consultation exercise is just a PR gimmick.
And if you are one of the tens of thousands of people outside Riversway who would also be subject to the environmental and flood risk consequences of the Riverworks barrage, both up and down the river and find yourself still not included in any consultation, perhaps you should be asking Preston City Council why your views are not being sought.
Update: The Riverworks Consultation in Full (Added 20/12/2006)
Here is page 1 of the Labour Leaflet (click on the picture to see it in full size).
You will notice that it contains glaring inaccuracies about the bid for Unitary Authority Status - it states that the bid is being made jointly with South Ribble Borough Council, even though South Ribble pulled out of this bid over two weeks ago under pressure from local residents. This embarrassing mistake has not prevented our councillors from distributing this misleading leaflet (mine came through my letterbox on the 17th December):
The page that contains the false implication that 'Save the Ribble' has been 'scaremongering' - in fact it is the council's own documents and press releases that have caused concern and consternation to local people. It also contains the promise to give residents full information on the Riverworks proposals (though the leaflet seems remarkably free of any such information, and the most recent document published on these proposals is being kept secret from local people)
Here are the actual questions - which completely ignore the burning questions about the Riverworks Barrage or the idea of building over 4000 houses in the floodplain, they ask us for our comments on the development ideas for the docks, while keeping us completely in the dark about what these ideas actually are (apart from a hint about 'floating platforms' - where are the documents that contain these ideas? When can we see them?).
Our Message To Local Councillors
If our councillors truly want to represent the interests of Riversway residents, then their place is alongside the Save The Ribble Campaign, campaigning against the Floodplain Housing and Ribble Barrage ideas contained in the Riverworks proposals.
The place of anyone who wants to defend the interests of people living alongside the Ribble, or of anyone who loves the birdlife of the Ribble estuary or the ecology of our river is with our campaign.
We will work with ANYONE, even people who in the past have accused us of 'scaremongering' to make sure that the Ribble barrage and floodplain housing ideas never happen.