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, March 30, 2007

Lunch Is On Us

Preston Vision Board, is already being dubbed by some as "Preston's real government", because it is making key decisions that will affect the future of all Preston's people. Yet the group is unelected and represents property developers such as Grosvenor Estates, and other businesses involved in the construction industry. This is the group which first came up with the notion of barraging the Ribble, and building over 4000 houses in it's floodplain.

The group is only now beginning to release minutes of it's meetings, going right back to it's first meetings in 2003.

We at Save The Ribble have got a copy of the minutes of their meeting held on 20th December 2006, courtesy of a Labour councillor who is angry at the Vision Board's record of failing to inform or consult elected members on the Riverworks proposals.

He said "We should continue to press forward with our views to ensure the Vision Board, unelected/appointed by who I do not know, listen and act according to what the local community want rather than dictate to us their opinion based possibly on commercial interests"

Minutes always give a very limited picture of what actually went on at a meeting - this one was attended by 11 people, including David Borrow MP.

From the minutes we learn that the feasibility study into the docks project has been funded with a £120,000 grant from the NWDA. This feasibility study does not cover the proposals to build a barrage across the River Ribble, so one can only imagine how much extra public money the study into these proposals is likely to cost.

Jean Hunter of South Ribble Borough Council confirmed her authority's 'continued support' for the Riverworks project. (This is likely to come as news to many South Ribble councillors, who like the Preston Councillors, have largely been kept in the dark about the Riverworks proposals).

Jim Carr suggested that Riverworks could contain consideration of 'sustainable energy production' - If he means using the barrage to generate hydro-electric power, then this really is a non-starter, the amount of electricity that could be generated from the Ribble would be absolutely tiny compared with the immense environmental damage a barrage would cause. In order to get the 'head' of the river high enough to generate electricity for any length of time, the water level would need to be raised even more, vastly increasing the flood risk to locals.

"Contact Strategy"

The Vision Board are also having a big Public Relations drive, a 'contact strategy', which seems to be aimed at leading figures in the local media, as well as 'briefing key decision makers' (no mention of informing or consulting those people likely to be directly affected by their proposals, such as local Prestonians and South Ribblers living near the Ribble!)

Michelle Surrell, Managing Director of Rock FM and Magic 999 is to be invited to join the Vision Board, as well as this;
"a target list of decision makers to be developed with input from Alan Roff, Jim Carr and Jean Hunter and a draft script/key briefing points developed. Volunteer Vision Board members (preferably not local authority) requested; lunch to be provided/paid for the VB members....

Malcolm McVicar, Jeremy Gorick and Nicola Turner to arrange lunch with the editor of the Lancashire Evening Post"

We at 'Save The Ribble' are sure that the editor of the LEP has such high standards of journalistic integrity that he will not allow a lunch with these people to prevent him from fairly presenting both sides of the Ribble Barrage debate - though we would like to extend a cordial invitation, as part of our own 'contact strategy', to the editor to join us in a kebab from the Barakah Takeaway on Fishergate Hill, he can even have extra chilli sauce...

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Pro-River Campaigns Around The World

When we at “Save The Ribble’ first began our campaign almost a year ago exactly, we thought we were just an isolated case of a local community and it’s river under threat from an undemocratic alliance of local politicians, officials and developers.

As we have continued our campaign, we have quickly learned that we are not on our own, and that all around the world, rivers, the people who live nearby and the eco-diversity they support face very similar challenges to those faced by the people living near the Ribble.

Save The Mary River Campaigners

For example, in Australia, local people are resisting a huge project to dam the Mary River: they have set up The Save The Mary River Campaign, they say:

“The more that is known about the Traveston Crossing Dam proposal on the Mary River, the worse it looks Queensland Premier Mr. Peter Beattie announced on Thursday, 27th April 2006 that the Queensland Government proposes to build a mega-dam (more than 1.3 times the area of Sydney Harbour) on the Mary River at Traveston Crossing that will inundate the central Mary Valley in Queensland's Sunshine Coast hinterland and re-direct the water of the Mary River catchment into Brisbane. Until the announcement, no information had been made public about ANY planning procedures or studies to justify the decision. There had been absolutely NO public consultation with any of the local stakeholders regarding this decision before the announcement.

The State Government's own scientific evidence indicates that this proposal would seriously degrade the 200km of river downstream of the proposal and greatly effect the Great Sandy Straits by stopping all fresh water flow to the sea from the river for a significant proportion of the time. Independant economic analysis now shows that the proposal is an extremely high risk, high cost strategy compared to other viable means of providing for urban water supply in SE Qld, and would produce water that will cost the public significantly more than most of the other viable options investigated. Reputable academic studies assessing social impact of the way the project has been implemented to date have been condemnatory in their conclusions.
It still looks as if the decision to spend billions of dollars of public money on a potential environmental and social disaster has been made on the basis of political expediency rather than good science, engineering and planning.

Read more at Traveston Swamp News

Image from

Meanwhile people in the La Plata Basin in Paraguay are resisting plans to turn their river into an industrial shipping channel.

“scientists predict that the channelization of the Paraguay River would cause the wetlands to shrink, with associated losses in biodiversity”

The preservation of wetlands is also a key issue for the future of the Ribble - these would be drowned upriver of a barrage, and starved of the silts that nourish them downriver.

People in China face an even more massive, threat, from the ‘Three Gorges Dam Project’

According to the International Rivers Network:

“The (three gorges) project has been plagued by massive corruption problems, spiraling costs, technological problems, human rights violations and resettlement difficulties. One million people have been displaced by the dam as of 2006; many are living under poor conditions with no recourse to address outstanding problems with compensation or resettlement. Said one peasant from Kai county, "We have been to the county government many times demanding officials to solve our problems, but they said this was almost impossible. They have threatened us with arrest if we appeal for help from higher government offices."

The dam is having terrible effects on the environment as well as the people:

“The dam is also affecting one of the world’s biggest fisheries in the East China Sea. Scientists estimate that annual catches may be reduced by one million tons due to the decline in fresh water and sediment reaching the sea. The Yangtze delta and tidal wetlands are already being badly eroded the loss of sediment.”

This is very similar to the potential consequences of a Ribble barrage, which would cut of the flow of silts to the environmentally significant Ribble Estuary and the Ribble Estuary Wetland Park.

Another set of dams threatens the River Narmada in central India

Campaigners demonstrated and fasted against the Narmada dam project

Campaigners against this project argue

“A quick look at the ground reality would disabuse anyone of the real nature of the dam-builder's enterprise. Large dams imply large budgets for related projects leading to large profits for a small group of people. A mass of research shows that even on purely technical grounds, large dams have been colossal failures. While they have delivered only a fraction of their purported benefits, they have had an extremely devastating effect on the riverine ecosystem and have rendered destitute large numbers of people (whose entire sustenance and modes of living are centered around the river). For no large dam in India has it been shown that the resettled people have been provided with just compensation and rehabilitation.”

There are also campaigns sparking off to destroy existing dams and barrages; the American group Taxpayers for Common Sense argue for the destruction of 4 dams on the Snake River.

They say:

Several stocks of Lower Snake River salmon and steelhead are already extinct or headed to extinction. Removing the four hydroelectric dams on the Lower Snake River in eastern Washington State is the only way to save the fish...

The sooner the dams are removed, the better. They are the key barrier to a crucial ecosystem – the pristine fish spawning grounds above the dams and the estuaries that lead to the Pacific Ocean. Environmentalists, Native Americans and commercial and sport fishing interests all have a special interest in the fish and the ecosystem.

Around the world, experts and now some governments are beginning to realise that as well as being environmentally destructive, and socially damaging to local people BARRAGES AND DAMS ARE EXPENSIVE - they neccessitate dredging and groundwater pumping which can cost £millions every year - of course it is the taxpayers who end up carrying this economic burden, when the developers have long since departed, with pockets full of cash.

There is lots of information on the economic costs of dams and on the benefits of destroying them in the “River Revival Bulletin”:
and also here

Dam being decommissioned
© Roberto Epple, ERN

It is great to know we are part of a worldwide pro-river movement, and we are sure that if enough people mobilise and explain the true social, economic and environmental costs of barrages and dams, we can gradually turn the tide against unsound and irresponsible dam and barrage projects, including the Riverworks Barrage.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Ribble Coast & Wetlands

The Ribble is one of the most important places in Europe for wildlife… its designation as a Regional Park - the Ribble Coast & Wetlands, officially launched on Friday 23rd March 2007 - is a positive and exciting step forwards in showing how protecting the Ribble’s inter-tidal ecosystem, for now and for future generations, will also boost the local economy.

Ribble saltmarsh at Marshside near Southport.

As a Regional Park, offering greater access to the Ribble’s dynamic and irreplaceable habitats, the Ribble will boost income from eco-friendly tourism opportunities by £115 million or more every year…
... and that’s just the new visitors who will be attracted to the Ribble's numerous current attractions, including Marshside Nature Reserve, Ainsdale and Birkdale Sandhills, the Ribble Discovery Centre, and Lytham Nature Reserve, not to mention new reserves in the near future such as Hesketh Out Marsh, the Tarleton to Hesketh Bank Linear Park, and the Sefton Natural Coast, and extensions and improvements to Martin Mere, Longton and Hutton Marshes, and Rufford Old Hall wetlands…

These are just a selection of the existing and newly-proposed eco-tourism opportunities which will form great attractions for the Ribble Coast & Wetlands Regional Park.

Yes, we can put the Ribble at the centre of our thinking without damaging its environmental integrity, or destroying its character, or denying its unique place in local, national, and international terms!

You can read what the World Wildlife Fund says about the economic importance of wetlands.

The Ribble Coast & Wetlands Regional Park will boost eco-tourism opportunities ALL YEAR ROUND as some of the best wild-life watching takes place outside of the traditional holiday season!

The new proposals for the Ribble Coast & Wetlands (RCW) also include fantastic new access routes for walking, cycling, and horse-riding, which will all become part of an intricate, accessible and dynamic North West Coastal Trail…

North West Coastal Path, Freckleton Pool.

…such as the Lancashire Coastal Way (some of which is already open), North West Coastal Path and the Sefton Coastal Path (again, some already completed), the Regional Coastal Trail, a foot/cycle/bridle bridge over the River Douglas, the Burscough to Banks Wetland Walk, the RCW Regional Park Cycleway, the Fylde Coast Cycleway, Lancashire Cycleway, the Trans Pennine Trail, and the Preston Guild Wheel (which will also link in to several other walking and cycling routes), all linking in with the Ribble Way, the Douglas Way, existing footpath networks, and the Southport to Preston National cycling route…

With the huge new Wetland Nature Reserve at Brockholes now in the pipeline – thanks largely to local people helping the Wildlife Trust save this fantastic wetland resource from building developments! – Preston itself also has a lot to offer the Ribble Coast & Wetlands Regional Park…

Brockholes Wetland, a Reserve in the making...

The Ribble Green Belt and floodplain - and a fantastic cycleway - between Fishwick Bottoms and Brockholes.

…and if the redevelopments of Preston Docks and Avenham & Miller Parks are undertaken in a sensitive and eco-friendly manner, these will be just some of the ways Preston can contribute positive and environmentally-sensitive attractions to the Ribble Coast & Wetlands network...

Reinstating the canal links in Preston itself, along with improvements to the Docks, are two ways in which the Riverworks scheme can make positive rather than negative contributions to the Regional Park, based as it is on preserving and enhancing the Ribble’s dynamic and Internationally-significant wetland ecosystem…
- but the other Riverworks proposals of barraging the Ribble and building massive housing and business developments on its floodplain and Green Belt areas clearly contravene the whole Regional Park raison d’etre as both of these proposals would interfere with the Ribble’s irreplaceable inter-tidal ecosystem on the one hand, and reduce its green infrastructure on the other.

The damage the barrage alone would cause to the Ribble’s inter-tidal ecosystem, by interfering with the natural free-flows of silts and nutrients, fresh and salt waters, which form the life-blood of this wildlife ecosystem, has been extensively covered on this blog, and is evidenced in the huge damage caused by similar schemes around the world, such as the Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, where:

Ninety-five percent of Grand Canyon's sediment and nutrients are trapped behind Glen Canyon Dam. Organic materials mixed into this sediment used to provide the fertilizer for the river ecosystem's health. Instead, the Colorado River in Grand Canyon now runs clear and cold, allowing the green alga cladophora to grow and replace the natural warm-water food web. The absence of replenishing sediment is also causing critical beach and sandbar habitat to disappear, and undermining the stability of archaeological sites…’

The Ribble's silts - the life-blood if its wetland ecosystem - clearly visible at low tide washing downstream between Penwortham and Preston.

The confluence of the Douglas into the Ribble, and the silt-rich mudflats exposed at low tide.

Rich inter-tidal Ribble mud.

The WWF point out that:

'wetlands are economically valuable biomes that provide goods and services upon which many communities and economies depend. Recognizing the economic importance of wetlands in addition to their biodiversity, scientific value, climate regulation, potential tourism, socio-cultural and other important wetland values is yet another good reason to reverse global wetland loss...

Dams disconnect rivers from their floodplains and wetlands. The damage to freshwater ecosystems can be devastating. They impact on the migratory patterns of fish, and flood riparian habitats, such as waterfalls, rapids, riverbanks and wetlands.

By slowing the movement of water, dams prevent the natural downstream movement of sediment to deltas, estuaries, flooded forests, wetlands, and inland seas, affecting species composition and productivity.

Dam operations also influence water quality. Water and sediment retention affect water quality and the waste processing capacity of rivers (the ability to break down organic pollutants). This could lead to production of toxic hydrogen sulphide gas that further degrades water quality.'

This is why it is so important that we do not endanger the Ribble's ecosystem by allowing any kind of dam, barrage, weir or barrier to be built, merely for the sake of a 'Water Sports Park'.

As it is, Preston Docks and Marina already bring much boating and sailing traffic through the Ribble Link, connecting Lancaster Canal to the inland waterway network south of the River Ribble – and all without the necessity of a barrage.
So boating folk have to wait for the tide, as they have done for centuries… but this is part of what boating is all about, an intricate relationship with the tides, weather and moods of the river and the sea, and it is clearly not worth the enormous risk to the Ribble’s delicate and irreplaceable inter-tidal ecosystem to interfere with its natural inter-tidal behaviour just so that boats can pass through without having to wait for the tides…

Just some of the traffic at Freckleton Pool

Freckleton Naze just downstream of where the Pool meets the Ribble.

If the perpetual blue-green algal blooms in the Dock basin can finally be solved (as much work done by the Environment Agency and partners bring the hope that it might be in the future), then the Docks could be utilised far more than just providing an idle mooring-space for boats and a back-drop to the weekly shopping as they do at present…

At the launch of the Ribble Coast & Wetlands, Laurence Rose, Regional Director of the RSPB, said that designating the Ribble a Regional Park enables long-term thinking to protect the most important single river estuary in Britain – which supports in the region of 1 million birds all year round - at the same time as promoting coastal tourism throughout the year which will bring in an extra £115 million to the local economy from new visitors.

So, the Internationally-significant numbers of bird species the Ribble supports every winter – 16 species in Internationally-important numbers - between 250,000 and 350,000 birds (including 70,000 Wigeon, 36,000 Dunlin, 34,000 Knot, 30,000 Pink-Footed Geese, to name but a few…) is more than the combined human population of Preston and South Ribble…

All year round, the Ribble supports more birds than the combined human populations of Preston, South Ribble, the Fylde, West Lancashire, Blackpool, Wyre, Chorley, the Ribble Valley… in fact, almost as many birds depend on the Ribble’s inter-tidal ecosystem as there are people in the whole of Lancashire… and the human population of the North West as a whole also benefits from the quality of life the Ribble’s ecosystem brings on every level.

Ribble inter-tidal ecosystem supports wildlife and human communities.

Michael Jack, MP for the Fylde, gave a keynote speech at the launch of the Ribble Coast & Wetlands, in which he pointed out that seeing the river as a divide between communities shows a dangerous lack of understanding of the importance of the Ribble to the environment and to our communities.

He went on to say that only by understanding what a rich treasure-house the Ribble is in biodiversity terms can we ensure we say “YES” to developments which improve our access to the Ribble, and “NO” to others which will damage this unique environment.

Michael Jack has made it clear he is very concerned about the impacts of a barrage on the Ribble, and has been working hard to ensure that Environment Agency advice AGAINST building developments on the flood plain are adhered to by local councils and other developers…

The Ribble Coast & Wetlands Regional Park aims to protect and improve this unique and irreplaceable environment, and the quality of life for local communities. This will be by improving access and facilities for local people as well as create fantastic eco-tourism opportunities... and by protecting the Ribble’s wetland habitats, this will protect and enhance the quality of life – and flood protection – these also bring to local communities.

Long Live the Ribble Wild!

You can read more about the Ribble Coast & Wetlands Regional Park here and here.

You can contact us at

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Ribble Coast and Wetlands Regional Park

Save The Ribble are delighted about the news that the Ribble Coast and Wetlands Regional Park is to go ahead.

This development, which is safe, sustainable and environmentally sound will attract visitors from all over the country to enjoy the beauty of the Ribble's estuary and Wetlands, admire it's rich and diverse wildlife, including it's 250000 wild birds and be able to walk and cycle in the area.

This development taps the true economic potential of the Ribble: particularly for wildlife tourism and will be a huge asset not just to Preston and South Ribble, but to the whole of the North West.

Ribble saltmarsh at Marshside

Of course, if the Council and the Preston Vision Board were to get their way, and build a barrage across the Ribble, much of the potential of this park could be destroyed. The wildlife of the Estuary and Wetlands that this park will be built on depend on the free flow of silts down the river for their habitats, a flow of silts which a barrage would prevent - in a similar way to which the Glen Canyon barrage at the Grand Canyon has stopped the flow of silts and destroyed a precious ecosystem - here is what the barrage did there:
Ninety-five percent of Grand Canyon's sediment and nutrients are trapped behind Glen Canyon Dam. Organic materials mixed into this sediment used to provide the fertilizer for the river ecosystem's health. Instead, the Colorado River in Grand Canyon now runs clear and cold, allowing the green alga cladophora to grow and replace the natural warm-water food web. The absence of replenishing sediment is also causing critical beach and sandbar habitat to disappear, and undermining the stability of archaeological sites sacred to the Canyon's native peoples.

Other News

Our revelation of the identities of members of the Preston Vision Board as being property developers and companies that make their money by building marinas has provoked a lively debate at the Preston Lancs Forum click on the link to have a look.

Rivers At Risk

The WWF have released a list of the worlds top 10 rivers at risk, the main threats to rivers being climate change, pollution and dams, the Danube for example:
Dams along the Danube River — one of the longest flowing rivers in Europe — have already destroyed 80 per cent of the river basin’s wetlands and floodplains.

Lets not let this happen to the Ribble!

The WWF say
wetlands are economically valuable biomes that provide goods and services upon which many communities and economies depend. Recognizing the economic importance of wetlands in addition to their biodiversity, scientific value, climate regulation, potential tourism, socio-cultural and other important wetland values is yet another good reason to reverse global wetland loss.

They also say:
Dams disconnect rivers from their floodplains and wetlands. The damage to freshwater ecosystems can be devastating. They impact on the migratory patterns of fish, and flood riparian habitats, such as waterfalls, rapids, riverbanks and wetlands.

By slowing the movement of water, dams prevent the natural downstream movement of sediment to deltas, estuaries, flooded forests, wetlands, and inland seas, affecting species composition and productivity.

Dam operations also influence water quality. Water and sediment retention affect water quality and the waste processing capacity of rivers (the ability to break down organic pollutants). This could lead to production of toxic hydrogen sulphide gas that further degrades water quality.

This is why it is so important that we do not endanger the Ribble's ecosystem by allowing any kind of dam, barrage, weir or barrier to be built, merely for the sake of a 'Water Sports Park'.

You can read more about the Ribble Coast & Wetlands on our sister blog, The Ribble Cycle Diaries.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Preston Vision Board - Who They Are

Save The Ribble has found out the identities of the members of the Preston Vision Board - the group that, with the support of Preston City Council, and consultancy firm GVA Grimley has published glossy leaflets advocating the building of a barrage across the Ribble and 4000 houses in the greenbelt nearby.

The members are largely representatives of local quangos, but who the few private sector representatives are makes very interesting reading.

First of all, of course, is Grosvenor Estates - a major property developer, belonging to the 3rd richest man in the country.

Also interesting is Jeremy Gorick, he is joint managing director of Flexcrete, a company that "manufactures a range of concrete repair materials and protective coatings for buildings and civil engineering structures, the water industry and marine structures, as well as specialist products such as car park decking systems and waterproof floor coatings".

So the situation is that we have representatives of a firm that supplies sprayed concrete technologies used in the construction of marinas, and a firm who's business is the development of housing and commercial properties, advocating the construction of an enormous marina, and the development of large amounts of housing and commercial properties along the Ribble, and being supported in these plans with public money from the NWDA, and the time of Preston and South Ribble Council Officers. Council officers who are incidentally paid by local council tax payers - who don't want to see the beautiful countryside by the Ribble turned into a housing estate, and it's precious environment destroyed by a barrage.

Here's the list of members, as supplied by Nicola Turner, Preston City Vision Manager:

Malcom McVicar (UCLAN)
Jeremy Gorick (Iotech/Liquid Plastics/Flexcrete)
(SEE CORRECTION regarding Mr Gorick's current business interests BELOW)
Keith Scott (Retired Architect)
Steve Jackson (New Reg Dot Com)
Grosvenor Estates
Khalid Saifullah (ABF Ent)
Alan Roff (Preston Strategic Partnership); (& UCLan)
David Borrow MP
Paul Spooner (English Partnership)
Jim Carr (Preston City Council)
Steve Dean (LCDL)
Jean Hunter (SRBC)
Denis Taylor (Lancashire Economic Partnership)

Jeremy Gorick has since contacted us and informed us that while he was in the past joint managing director of this company, he no longer has any connection whatsoever with Flexcrete (SEE COMMENTS BELOW). We thank Mr Gorick for contacting us and we are pleased to make it clear that Mr Gorick is a FORMER managing director of Flexcrete, but has now severed all his connections with the company.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Former Preston Mayor Lambasts Vision Board

Members of the Save The Ribble Campaign were amongst the other local residents who attended Preston City Council's 'Central Area Forum' on Thursday 15th March.

We found that our concerns about the undemocratic Vision Board's schemes were shared, not just by residents, but also by some councillors.

Nicola Turner, the City Vision Manager for Preston gave a presentation on the work of the group, revealing the membership of the group that wants to barrage the River Ribble and build 4000 houses in its floodplain to be:

Malcom McVicar (UCLAN)
Jeremy Gorick (Iotech/Liquid Plastics/Flexcrete)
Keith Scott (Retired Architect)
Steve Jackson (New Reg Dot Com)
Grosvenor Estates
Khalid Saifullah (ABF Ent)
Alan Roff (PSP)
David Borrow MP
Paul Spooner (English Partnership)
Jim Carr (Preston City Council)
Steve Dean (LCDL)
Jean Hunter (SRBC)
Denis Taylor (Lancashire Economic Partnership)

Ms Turner did not mention millionaire businessman Arif Patel who according to the Lancashire Evening Post, quit his position on the Vision Board in 2004 after the LEP "unearthed the fact that he had pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to defraud the council after Lancashire Police's Operation Angel investigation into claims of town hall corruption." According to this report "Membership (of the Vision Board) is by personal recommendation and subsequent agreement by the Vision Board"

The Vision Board are not elected by anybody, yet are making momentous proposals about the future of Preston and about how large sums of public money, and Preston City Council officer's time should be spent.

The group has been in existence since 2003, but they only published the minutes of their meetings, going back to 2003, last week. Some of their documents, according to Nicola Turner cannot be released to the public because they are 'commercially sensitive'.

We have been told many times that the proposals put forward in previous Council/Vision Board documents, which show maps of major housing developments on the green fields, sports grounds and allotments on the South Bank of the Ribble are 'just ideas' and 'blue sky thinking', and that Save The Ribble are 'mischief making' when we draw local people's attention to these images and documents, yet at this meeting we found yet another glossy brochure, bearing the City Council Logo, which shows computer graphics of blocks of flats along the tramway and on the fields opposite both Avenham and Miller Parks (over land currently used by Penwortham Town FC to play football and train local kids).

The document says that 'Key Project Proposals include the development of a barrage across the River providing a range of economic and environmental benefits' It also states that this is an 'Urban Area' contradicting it's introduction where it refers to 'easy access to areas of open countryside'.

Local people's objections to the undemocratic, unrepresentative and secretive nature of the Vision Board were echoed by a local councillor, and former mayor, who lambasted the board for its secrecy and said that he shared residents concerns about the barrage proposals, while Councillor Swindells, another councillor who has publicly declared his opposition to the barrage proposals, said that he had been assured by people at the Environment Agency that any proposals to build housing in the floodplain would be in breach of their policies.

When we asked Nicola Turner why the Vision Board were planning to spend large amounts of money on a feasibility study into the Ribble Barrage proposals, when in 1986 Halcrow had carried out the River Ribble Weir Appraisal into an almost identical set of ideas, which had led the council at the time to dump the ideas as they were impractical and would raise the flood risk to local people, she incredibly said that she had never heard of this study! She went on to say that although she had never heard of it, she was sure that Mike Brogan, her boss, would have read it, probably...

The whole section of the meeting devoted to the 'work' of the Vision Board showed what a secretive shambles is going on, behind closed doors, in a way that is making some local councillors angry and frustrated at their lack of accountability.

Is it 'mischief making' to suggest that the future of our City should be determined by people who are elected and subject to public democratic scrutiny, people who demonstrate a commitment to the well being of local people, not to the wallets of greedy developers and wealthy businessmen?

If the Council and the Vision Board are to maintain any kind of credibility with local people, they should publicly renounce any plans to barrage our river, or to build housing in its floodplain - if they proceed further with these ideas, they will make local people even angrier, and more determined to resist.

Further Reading:

Click here for Aidan Turner-Bishop's 28 Questions for the Preston Vision Board

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Rare Birds Spotted On Ribble

The Birdwatching community is very excited at the news that rare birds have been sighted in the Ribble.

Green Winged Teal in the Ribble (image by Colin Bushell)

These include The Green Winged Teal Colin Bushell reports on his blog:
Despite "negative news" on the Green-winged Teal this morning, I decided to take the short drive out to the Ribble Estuary to check RSPB Marshside because of the delightful weather. Female Scaup still present on the pool along with a couple of Pochard and Avocets - not much change since my last visit a couple of days previously. On arrival at the Sandgrounders Hide I immediately spotted the drake Green-winged Teal swimming towards me in the channel. Easy! Relaxed, I spent some time in the hide watching the teal, Black-tailed Godwits and Avocets before strolling out in the afternoon sunshine to Polly's Creek.

Black Tailed Godwit (picture from )

While Bob's Birding Blog reports:

A round-the-clock nest protection operation is ready to swing into action this spring when one of the UK’s rarest birds returns to nest on the Ribble estuary.

Each spring for at least the last ten years black-tailed godwits have nested on marshland on the Ribble estuary, near Preston. Less than 60 pairs of the long-legged wading birds breed in the whole of the UK and the two pairs on the Ribble are the only ones to nest in north west England. When the birds return next month, the RSPB and Fylde Bird Club will mount a 24-hr guard on the nest to deter egg thieves.

The two organisations today (14 March 2007) launched an appeal for more volunteers to come forward to help protect the Ribble’s special birds, and are inviting local people to a meeting in St Annes next month (5th April) to recruit more godwit guardians.

Anybody who would like to find out more about volunteering is invited to come along to the Ribble Discovery Centre, Fairhaven Lake, St Annes at 7pm on Thursday 5th April, or contact Carol Coupe on 01995 642251 or e-mail

For additional information see:

These rare birds come to the Ribble to feed on the worms and other invertabrates that live in the rich muds of the Estuary. The rich muds are washed down the Ribble as silts.

If Preston City Council and the Vision Board succeed in building a barrage across the Ribble, as proposed in their 'Riverworks' documents, this flow of silts will be disrupted, and the habitats of these rare birds will be destroyed.

Time for Preston City Council to do the responsible thing, and renounce any plans to barrage the river and destroy this precious environment.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Flood Defence Lies Nailed

Advocates of the Riverworks Ribble Barrage idea have been busy making the false claim that somehow a barrage designed to raise the river level can also protect us against floods. This idea has even been slipped into the Local Development Framework documents, when all the evidence shows the opposite.

Readers of tonight's Lancashire Evening Post will have seen Mike Winrow of Longton's letter where he exposes the flood defence myth - he points out that the proposed barrage would be totally useless against flooding when the river is in spate:

"What if there were a Carlisle-style flood... would the sluices be closed when the tide came in?.. No, they'd be wide open, no matter how high the tide, and then it would be in the lap of the gods whether flooding occurred. It only makes sense to close the sluices when there is more water coming upriver than going down, but this will only occur when there's relatively small amounts of water in the river, and no flood risk, no matter how high the tide"

Click on the picture to read the letter in full

Mike Winrow's arguments echo those in the River Ribble Weir Appraisal, written in 1986 by expert consultants Halcrow who were commissioned by the council the last time they wanted to barrage our river. Their in-depth study points out that barrages and weirs in the river INCREASE the risk of flooding when the river is in spate, and gives a long list of reasons why barraging the Ribble to turn it over to 'leisure use' would be totally impractical and raise the flood risk to local people.

There are two possibilities. The people who are making claims that the barrage will defend us from flooding have read the Halcrow River Ribble Weir Appraisal, in which case they are knowingly telling lies when they claim that the barrage would be a flood defence, or else they have not read this key document, in which case they are proving themselves to be unprofessional and lacking the competence to plan the future of our city.

Meanwhile, another blogger, Ken who writes South Ribble Tales has hit out at the Riverworks scheme, and the arguments of property developer Tarquin Scott, here is what Ken wrote so eloquently on his excellent local blog:

Now then , the Ribble Barrier will bring wonderful benefits to South Ribble and Preston will it? A power station, waterbuses, a new road, and 4000 houses, cor blimey!
Some folk just do not get it or at least only see the £ signs. All those proposed benefits seem like a disaster for the enviroment around the river and beyond.
Why would building a new road link down a quiet counrty lane across farmland be a benefit? How are building 4000 homes within walking and cyling distance of Preston going to make people walk and cycle? There are already 1000's of homes within that distance and I do not notice the roads bursting with bikes and the footpaths overflowing with pedestrians. Lets get that plan going first so proving it could work that way.
The best one though is the waterbus. How big is this going to be, how many do they plan to use, how fast will they travel? Do the planners seriously think commuters would use them? Forgive me but the last time I looked the river does not pass any major factories or schools or anything else that people would commute too. Presumabley they would also employ an icebreaker for winter as a slow flowing waterway would regularly freeze over. Why are tourists are going to be attracted to this? There is nothing in our parks that make them that attractive to a visitor. Beautiful as our parks are they are not a tourist attraction. They would need facilities, a cafe, toilets, bike hire, shops, carparking etc etc as well as the infrestructure associated with the buses themselves. In any case any tourists would increase traffic along with the other 4000 homes rapidly filling the new roads.

The Ribble is a fast flowing river with a burden of mud and silt. If a barrage is built this will be dropped in the Preston area, in turn this will lead to erosion elsewhere. I am not an expert but if more silt is laid down upstream surely this must lead to increases flooding risks so more protection would be needed for any buildings on the natural floodplain.
There is an abundance of wildlife that will have its environment changed forever.
I have seen as many as 30 herons fishing in the rising and ebbing tide on the silt at the bullnose. That would be lost forever. (just one small example of the impact)
The peace and tranquility of a large area west of the docks would be destroyed with roads and industrial development.
Remember the Ribble Bore, what an impressive sight that is. What would happen to this?
Look at the amount of flotsam and jetsam (rubbish) on the banks. What will happen to this if there is no tide? Maybe it will eventually collect at the new power station and jam it up.

Yes, I say develop the river, encourage people to use the open spaces and natural environment provided by our river, there is much potential there. But no, a barrage is not a development for me.
It looks like another docklands type plan. Good on paper in money terms, but in reality a big disappointment to the people who saw the potential lost to car dealerships, stores and distinctly smelly water.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Local Development Framework Consultation Countdown

A reminder that the Local Development Framework Public Consultation reaches its peak this month...

- The Chorley Public drop-in session took place yesterday;
- The South Ribble drop-in session is next Tuesday, 13th March at the United Reform Church, Hough Lane, Leyland ANYTIME between 4 – 7pm;
- The Preston drop-in session is on Wednesday 21st March in Meeting Room A, Town Hall, Preston ANYTIME between 4 – 7pm.

You can of course attend any of these sessions as the Local Development Framework involves all three areas.

The written Response Form needs to be completed by 30th March 2007 – so don’t delay, DO YOURS TODAY!

You can read more about the Local Development Framework consultation - and why this involves YOU - here

Monday, March 05, 2007

Tales From the Riverbank

More Ribbleside photographs, poetry and comments sent in by residents and Ribble-lovers... including a poem from the late 16th century...

The Ribble's silt-laden spate waters at low tide rushing beneath Old Penwortham Bridge by Jabberwocky.
"We could hear the sound of the water as we approached the river and we took our time watching the river and the birds as we always do, and the fresh spring breeze blew the sound of the water over us. It really lifted our spirits out of that usual Monday morning feeling as we crossed the Bridge ..."

This rather impressionistic picture was sent in by Kevin as it's one his son Greg took which he particularly likes. Thanks Kevin and Greg!

Jo N. sent in this one and provided a great caption...

"Steam" by Jo N.

The following poem is a verse from "Polyolbion" by 16th/early 17th century poet Michael Drayton, his poem is a long collection of "songs" celebrating the rivers of England...

River Ribble, from song xxviii

"From Pengent's proud foot as from my source I slide,
That mountain, my proud sire, in height of all his pride,
Takes pleasure in my course as in his first-born flood,
And Ingleborough, too of that Olympian brood,
With Pendle, of the north, the highest hills that be,
Do wistly me behold, and are beheld of me."

Polyolbion - Michael Drayton (1563-1631)

A few years ago, after seeing this poem, the Ribble Basin Campaign held a competition to find a new poem for the River Ribble in the new Millennium. They got a fantastic response and have sent in the winning poem (by Tom Hicks) and the 3 runners up.

River Ribble - Pride of the Counties
by Tom Hicks

"Steep rise the hills above the lush valley,
Verdant the meadows luxuriant below
Fed by the waters that eddy and sally,
Ere to the seas they, meandering, flow.
Borne from the heights with progression erratic,
Held in a pool or cast down in a fall,
Calm in a shallow, cascading, dramatic,
Calling, enthralling to us one and all.

Old as the hills given birth by creation
Ever inviting for work and for play
Sought by the homestead in each generation,
Sought by the traveller to pleasure his way.
Chosen by Rome as a site for the Legion
Raising the ensign and building the camp,
Ribchester Ribble defending the region,
High flew the eagle and bright shone the lamp.

Norsemen and Scotsmen all claimed you as bounty,
Cuerdale and Clitheroe nourished them well;
Fair River Ribble the pride of the county,
Lancashire truly but Yorkshire as well!
Whatever preference your colour of roses,
Contrast or complement, both stand the test,
Both add their virtues to all that composes
Our sweet flowing river, the brightest and best.

Pendle looks down with its coven of witches
Hanggliding broomstickwise o'er waters cool
Loving your snaking and sensuous riches,
Glad there's no sight of the feared ducking stool!
Fishermen sit at your side by the hour
Coaxing, cajoling the fish from the stream,
Weighing, returning the catch to your power,
Watching for bubbles or sun's dappled gleam.

Merchantmen sailed with their cargoes to Preston
Bearing bananas and barley and coal,
Timber that businessmen risked all their best on
Bringing employment with profit the goal.
Gone now the warehouses; ships sail no longer
Gliding up river through fields flat and green;
Sails of the yachts fill as breezes blow stronger
Bringing new thrills and new joys to the scene.

Out flows the river 'twixt Southport and Lytham
Conscious the journey will shortly be through,
Meeting and sharing the sea's tidal rhythm,
Backward to landfall, out into the blue.
Dear to our hearts are your manifold beauties,
Jaded? We come for release to your banks,
Seeking refreshment from life's toils and duties,
Finding sweet peace, praising God, giving thanks."

People of the Ribble
by Mary Hodges

"Rippling Ribble ribbon linking fells and sea
I stand on your banks, gaze at the scene
Is all of this splendour for me?

Roman Centurion in Ribchester

Rushing northern river
Brushing by Bremetennacum
Speeding your way to the sea.
When my allotted tasks are done
I come and watch the roaring waters
In the chill British rain.
And long and yearn for Rome
Would this were the Tiber
By my dear ancestral home.
The river roars and ripples
Links the mountains to the sea
I stand on the bank, surveying the scene
But the grandeur is wasted on me.

Monk at Sawley Abbey

Silently I pace beside the river
Telling my beads and soothing my soul
The stillness, the calm, the peace of this river
Heal and refresh, renew and make whole.
Life is a river rippling and rushing
Pushing us onward into the fray
Or stilling our fretfulness calming our terrors
Wiping our tears and our fears away.

Rippling Ribble ribbon linking fells and sea
I stand on your banks, gaze at the scene
Did God give this splendour to me?

Preston Merchant

I count the cargoes, a river of gold
Flowing into Preston,
Prosperous Preston, guilded with guile
Trade made possible by the Ribble
Ships from far away slide into dock.
I rub my hands with glee
All this merchandise and trade
A promise of wealth for me.

Rippling Ribble, ribbon linking fells and sea
I stand on your banks, gaze at the scene
Is all of this profit for me?

Upland Sheepfarmer

I stand by the river and gaze at the scene
Bleak and cold and chill
The ewes and their lambs bleat thinly
In the sleet on the side of the hill.
I look at the river and wonder
How long I can keep up the pace
As down and down goes the price my lambs
Will fetch in the market place.

Rippling Ribble ribbon linking fells and sea
I stand on your banks, gaze at the scene
And I know I shall never be free
From ties that bind me to farm and flock
The splendour that holds me in thrall
Away from the Ribble cut off from its stream
For me there'd be no life at all.


We come at last to Waddington
I sit by the river, remove my boots
Examine my feet before I bother with the view
A seat in the garden, the heat of the sun
Warm on my arms, I watch the river.
The rippling Ribble, with flower-filled gardens
Shady trees, a quiet village straight from a story-book.
I close my eyes and sigh for the simple delight of it.

Rippling Ribble ribbon linking fells and sea
I sit by your bank, gaze at the scene
Is all of this beauty for me?"

Wild and Free
by Barbara Eastham

"From the gentle Yorkshire Dales
By limestone crag and hardy sheep,
Her sparkling countenance reflects
Fine Roman walls, a Norman keep.

She flows through changing landscape
Ancient hamlets, leafy lanes,
Seeking out historic buildings
Market towns and fertile plains.

Lost within her swirling waters
Relics lie by bridge and ford,
Gone forever without trace
Fine helmets, pistols, staffs and sword.

She casts a silver thread through land
Where Cromwell paused, in thought.
Her fragile banks ran red with blood
As the Civil War was fought.

Tumbling over mossy stones
She sings her song in Ribblesdale
As Cormorants rob the angler
And graceful Herons tread the shale

Forming a beautiful tapestry
She weaves her charms to the sea
A perpetual vision in motion
The River Ribble - wild and free!"

River Ribble (Another Millennium I want to see!)
by Mildred Smith

"Rising from my source at Newby Head Moss,
I spring into existence and take up my cause.
Bubbling along with water clean and pure,
By heather-laden hills - my future is secure.
Life and hope to creatures I bring,
'Environmentally Friendly', is the song that I sing.

'Ribbling' along - I'm enriched by the Hodder,
I appreciate her contribution of soft, sparkling water.
Bird life in abundance - the heron with in-built spear,
Beautiful regal kingfishers - their aims very clear.
Leaping, greeting salmon - such a joy to behold,
Everyone - please care for me - I'm worth much more than gold!

Running with pride through the Ribble Valley,
Initiative is needed if people are to rally.
Bringing together folks who will walk by my side,
Bewicks's swans, pink-footed geese too - that in my estuary abide.

Learn to plan for biodiversity -
Educating all to watch for me - Another Millennium I want to see!"

Thanks to all contributors - keep sending in your fantastic pictures, poetry and comments to

Click here for more Tales From The Riverbank, and check out what the Ribble is up to at The Ribble Cycle Diaries...

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