A Flood of Letters
The local anger over the way that Preston City Council is considering the building of a barrage across the Ribble and 4000 houses in it's floodplain is growing stronger, particularly since the Save The Ribble Blog was featured in The Guardian, and in this front page article in the Lancashire Evening Post.
Pressure of public opinion seems to be opening divisions within the council, with Councillor John Swindells taking his job title seriously as Cabinet Member for the Environment by writing in to the LEP to remind his fellow councillors that they are custodians of the local environment and have a deep responsiblity to protect our river and it's wildlife that outweighs any potential commercial gain, sentiments that Freckleton Parish Council and Fylde Borough Council may well applaud.
Others who have written to the paper include Greg Smith, well known locally for his work with St Stephen's Church and the Salvation Army, and nationally as a leading Christian writer on Urban Ministry.
He has written this powerful letter to the Lancashire Evening Post, which we shamelessly lift in full from his blog 'Gregs New Blog - Credo' (we recommend you follow THIS LINK to his blog as he has also posted some eye-meltingly beautiful new images of the Ribble):
I appreciated the fairness of you leader article of 3rd January although I felt the news coverage in the same issue relied over much on the viewpoints, language and press releases of Mike Brogan and the Preston Vision Board. Ever since I first heard of the Riverworks Project I (as a riverside resident) have been convinced of two things:
Firstly that any barrage or weir that destroys the flowing stream and the tidal nature of the Ribble would be an environmental disaster, especially for the precious wildlife living there.
Secondly that destroying the greenbelt on the Penwortham side by the injudicious building of housing on the floodplain would rob us of one of the greatest attractions of our neighbourhood. Open country so close to our city is probably the greatest environmental asset we have (and my dog and hundred's of others agree!).
There may well be a number of good ideas for useful urban regeneration to be found elsewwhere in the Riverworks report. We could certainly make more of the River Corridor, Canal and Docks in economically beneficial and environmentally sensitive ways. How about for example developing the docks rail corridor into a tram system with a huge new park and ride at the western edge of the city and a wall across the Blackpool Road to keep out unwanted polluting traffic from the Fylde?
However, it is hard to judge the value of the proposals since until now the report appears to have been treated as a top secret document. It seems to me the unelected Vision Board who most probably represent big business, and well paid planning consultants and senior council officers much more than local residents, have shot themeslves in the foot by denying us the chance for proper consultation at an early stage. They may not wish "to raise false hopes or fears" over a pre-feasility study, but they have achieved just that in a remarkable way by their cowardly secrecy.
An early consultation would make it clear from the outset what the public will or will not stomach. It would probably knock on the head any crazy ideas such as a barrage, without the need to waste further public money on investigating the idea. And it might generate a number of exciting and more feasible suggestions for improvement from the people who know the neighbourhood far better than any of the external consultants.
At least some of our local councillors, claim that they have not yet sold out to the Vision Board's ideas and are engaging in the debate. I am no fan of New Labour either at the national or local level, but it is to the credit of the local members for Riversway ward that they have invited residents to contribute, in a fairly open ended way to a consultation exercise covering at least a part of the Riverworks proposal. It is to be hoped that many local people will make their views heard, that the council will listen carefully and respond to the good sense of the majority of local people who oppose much of the scheme.
The Bible tells us that "without a vision the people perish". I fear that the with the mistaken and blurred vision of the Vision Board it will be Preston's people who suffer, and the river Ribble that will die.
Go Greg! We look forward to reading your letter when it reaches the LEP letters page!
Our campaign is open to everyone who loves their local river and wants to stop building in the Ribble greenbelt, we have previously posted on the importance of the Ribble to Sikhs, Mormons and all kinds of other people.
Sending letters to the LEP, other local newspapers and even the 'Save The Ribble' Blog is a powerful way of spreading the pro-Ribble message. Why not take a leaf out of Greg's book, and let the world know your opinions about the Ribble Barrage and Floodplain Housing ideas!