LEP Barrage Survey - What Are YOUR Views?
Aswell as running a story on how much worse yesterday's flooding in South Ribble and Preston could have been had the Ribble had a barrage keeping the river levels permanently high, the Lancashire Evening Post are running a Survey asking YOU for YOUR views about the Riverworks Barrage proposal.
The LEP Survey is available online on the LEP website, and they plan to open the debate by setting out the pros and cons of the Barrage proposal...
Many local residents - such as ourselves - have made no secret of our opposition to these proposals, and these are the central arguments:
Preston City Council and Preston Vision Board claim that:
1. the River is “bleak, barren and undeveloped”, and “severely underutilised” and that the barrage will “enhance both the natural and built environment” (Riverworks Document 01: "Quality Riverside");
2. 'the development of a barrage across the river [will] provid[e] a range of economic benefits', (Preston Economic Regeneration Strategy and Prioritised Action Plan p7);
3. that it will create 'many new opportunities for river usage ranging from angling, boating and general water-based recreational activities to birdwatching, walking , horse riding and cycling' (Riverside Doc 01);
4. that a barrage will 'contribute greatly to Preston's flood defence' (Riverside 01).
We claim that:
1. This attitude:
- ignores the crucial importance to wildlife of this Internationally recognised intertidal habitat (which is Internationally protected due to its incredibly rich intertidal ecosystem - anything but "barren"!);
- crassly presumes that one of Britain's last great wildlife and wilderness areas "needs" to have developments on it!
- ignores the beauty and character and existing "utility" of this unique river;
- presumes that the only way to boost its "utility" is by building a barrage, whereas Environmental groups, local people, and other Local Authorities have more forward-thinking ideas about boosting the local economy, tourism and leisure on the Ribble through the enormous opportunities the Ribble Coast & Wetlands Regional Park will bring. This is based upon the Ribble's NATURAL intertidal wetlands, with many Nature Reserves, footpaths and cycleways, boating, angling, birdwatching, cycling, horseriding, and walking opportunities, which will create at least 4,600 jobs and generate an EXTRA £115 million EVERY YEAR for the local economy from new visitors alone - and all WITHOUT A BARRAGE!
2. Regarding the claimed "economic benefits", a Ribble barrage will actually be a serious economic DRAIN on local resources, not just in the many, many £millions it will cost to construct, but PERMANENTLY as the constant environmental effects will constantly have to be mitigated against - such as loss of protected habitats, increased floodrisk, land drainage pumping stations due to rising water table, water quality problems and blue-green algae, and loss of fish stocks. Such effects as these are costing the Cardiff economy over £20 million every year, year on year, since the Taff Barrage was completed...
See our article on the Economic and Environmental Consequences of Barrages for more details. On the Ribble, we would also lose many of our potential new visitors to the Ribble Coast & Wetlands if these very wetlands are depleted - a very real risk with a barrage which will actively prevent the river's natural movements of waters and silts.
3. Thousands of us already engage in 'angling, boating and general water-based recreational activities to birdwatching, walking , horse riding and cycling' on the Ribble as NONE OF THESE ACTIVITIES NEED A BARRAGE.
It is nonsense to claim that leisure resources will be increased by plans that will damage or destroy the biodiversity and tranquillity of the River and riverside areas, and the very environment which hundreds of thousands of birds and fish and other wildlife depend on. Part of the pleasure for many boat users is enjoying the natural rhythms of the tides...
4. A Ribble Barrage would INCREASE our floodrisk as Preston is NOT at risk from the sea, but from river flooding during heavy rainfall periods - as is South Ribble, Walton le Dale, and a number of other Ribbleside communities. The Ribble is Nature's drain for a huge area of the North West: we block that drain at our peril!
See our article: Protecting Ribble Communities From Flooding: Why a Barrage Won't Work for more details. Many Ribble communities may also find floodrisk increasing due to the potential loss of the Ribble's mudflats and saltmarsh the barrage could cause as these wetlands are the most effective and sustainable forms of flood defences.
But don't just take our word for it... here are what environmental experts and other people directly concerned with the sustainability and future of our environment have to say:
- Laurence Rose, Regional Director of the RSPB said:
‘the barrage could destroy one of Britain’s most delicate ecosystems’ and “we are extremely concerned about a barrage across a protected estuary because anything that interferes with the hydrology of the estuary is prima facie bad news.”
(The Kirkham and Fylde Express, April 19th 2007);
- Dave Dunlop, from the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester & North Merseyside, said:
The Wildlife Trust "shares the concerns of the RSPB… any development that would further constrain its natural functioning is a bad idea, and would presumably be in breach of the UK Government’s obligations under international convention and law."
(See comments on our blog Fylde community speaks out against the barrage.)
- David Hinks, Chairman of the Ribble Fisheries Consultative Association, told us:
"The history of barrages placed across rivers shows that they impede migratory fish. The Ribble, thanks to the great efforts of anglers…, the habitat work of the Ribble Catchment Conservation Trust and Environment Agency, is just beginning to meet its spawning deposition target. Anything that puts this development back will put the Ribble at risk as a major salmon river. The whole ecosystem of the Ribble is delicately balanced yet Preston City Council refuse to speak to angling representatives."
- According to the Environment Agency, ‘the presence of a barrage structure across the [river’s] main water body automatically places it at high risk of not achieving the WFD [EU WaterFramework Directive] objectives’. The River Ribble is the UK’s Pilot WFD River.
- Fylde MP Michael Jack said:
“Mankind has an enormous responsibility to look after the estuary and its wildlife and I don’t think we should be monkeying around with that for the sake of making money. You play around with nature at your peril. I remain deeply sceptical about this proposal.”
(The Lytham St Annes Express, on April 19th 2007);
It is also the case that the many Legislations which protect the Ribble because of its International, and European and National importance to the environment presume AGAINST any project which might impact on this delicate inter-tidal ecosystem - unless there is no alternative - which there is: DON'T BUILD ONE.
And if it's a question of aesthetics - always a subjective issue but important if we are to consider what ENHANCES the natural environment - we know which WE prefer...
Ribbleside habitat and views towards Brockholes: a landscape lost forever if the riverside developments and concrete walkways and mooring bays are constructed from Preston to Brockholes as proposed...
The ever-changing tides and moods of the Ribble at Penwortham Old Bridge, one of the potential sites for the barrage...
The wild beauty of the Ribble and intertidal mudflats at the Douglas (Asland) - another potential site for the barrage...
Cardiff's barrage, not exactly attractive...
Complete the LEP's Ribble Barrage Survey - let them know what YOU think!
See the links on the sidebar for more information about why the Ribble is so important.