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.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Public Meeting about Ribble Barrage & Green Belt/Floodplain Building Development Proposals

Calling all Ribblesiders!

There is to be a

PUBLIC MEETING on Tuesday November 20th from 7-9pm at the Town Hall in Preston, Rooms A & B

where you will get the opportunity to listen to the issues about the Ribble barrage & the building developments proposed for the Green Belt/floodplain in Penwortham, and ask questions.

Preston Riversway Councillors are arranging the meeting in conjunction with Save The Ribble.
There will be a number of speakers, including:

Preston City Council officers;

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds;

Lancashire Wildlife Trust;

Ribble fisheries Consultative Association;

Save The Ribble Campaign


This meeting is still going ahead despite recent news that the barrage and building developments are currently taking a back seat whilst more immediate consideration is being given to the feasibility of proposals to improve the Docks and look at reinstating the Lancaster Canl into Preston so book the evening of 20th November in your diary!

you can contact us at

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Preston Council Leaders Get A Sandbagging In Ribble Flood Furore

Riversway Councillor Jack Davenport made his point about the blindness of the leadership of Preston City Council to issues of flood risk around drainage and flood defences near the Ribble very vividly at the last City Council meeting, he produced two sandbags which he proceeded to place at in front of Council leader Ken Hudson and his ally Danny Gallagher, leader of the Liberal Democrats in Preston.

According to the Lancashire Evening Post Jack Davenport's "attention grabbing stunt" was a protest over the "plans to build homes on flood plains near the River Ribble... sand was spilled all over council papers and prompted a furore in the chamber over how the bags got past Town Hall security"

The protest came a month after the Council flatly refused to debate a motion about the risk of flooding to Preston residents - the council leaders preferring to put the interests of the developers interested in the Riverworks Project ahead of the interests of Preston People.

Council Leader Ken Hudson told this latest Council meeting that:
"The Conservative group is happy to talk to anyone else prepared to look at funding a study for the Riverworks project"

- they are happy to talk to anyone willing to progress the Riverworks barrage but NOT talk to anyone concerned about the environmental impacts or flooding risks!

Bizarrely, Ken Hudson then went on to accuse those councillors concerned about these issues and who DO wish to discuss them of sticking their "heads in the silt of the river... waiting to be drowned" when it is clearly the pro-barrage lobby who are refusing to listen to the evidence and discuss the issues!

Jack Davenport is calling for urgent action in the wake of severe flooding across the country, that shows how vulnerable many areas are to flash flooding, particularly where drainage and flood defences are inadequate. (As they certainly are near Broadgate and Middleforth).

The risk of flooding to residents in these areas would be greatly increased if the council were to build huge new housing estates on the greenbelt and floodplain land that lines the River Ribble, or if they were to build a barrage across the Ribble in order to raise it to permanent high tide level. Preston City Council says they may be 'going back to the drawing board' with some of these plans from Riverworks, due to questions of whether they are acceptable to South Ribble Council. (Though the fact that they are totally unacceptable to ordinary people in both Preston and South Ribble, or to any environmental organisation does not seem to concern our Council Officials)

One Save The Ribble member was so impressed with Jack Davenport's action that he sent him the following email:

Dear Councillor Davenport,

I'm writing to salute your recent protest on behalf of Broadgate residents about the Riverworks plans.

I feel you are doing an excellent job bringing the flood risk posed by the Riverworks Barrage and Housing ideas to public attention, you are doing exactly what a democratic representative of the public should be doing.

You may be criticised for it by a few political hacks, but I definitely think the idea of using sandbags in this way showed imagination, panache and not a little courage, that will be appreciated by ordinary Prestonians.

Thankyou for representing me so well as one of your constituents, and keep up the good work!

Thatcher used to give her ministers a handbagging - Now Jack Davenport gives Preston Council Leaders a sandbagging!

Jack Davenport said to Save The Ribble:

"the issue I was trying to raise was the issue of flooding from drainage. The issue of Riverworks, though related, was not the exact topic of discussion (that is to come), but the general issue however is that the current administration appears blind to the whole thing and won't discuss it. I've heard of putting ones head in the sand, but never putting it in a sandbag!"

Let us know your own response to Councillor Davenport's sandbag protest by replying to this article below!

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Ribble Barrage and Floodplain Building Developments Take 'Backward Step' - Has The Ribble Been Saved?


The Lancashire Evening Post are reporting today that Preston City Council Chief Executive Jim Carr has stated that the Ribble barrage and the 'plans to redevelop an area of the river in the city and neighbouring South Ribble' have 'gone back to the drawing board'.

you can click on the picture to read the LEP article in full...

The LEP report that whilst 'plans to solve the blue-green algae problem and fix aging gates at Preston Dock will press ahead', Mr. Carr has stated that:

"The riverside element has taken a step back from where we were (before the local elections earlier this year) because of the political changes here and in South Ribble".

Mr Carr continued:

"What we are now relying on is discussing this between the leaders to see what is acceptable to them. Much of the development is in South Ribble and now it is an issue of whether it wants to progress this".

Luckily for the River Ribble, our environment, and our communities, it seems that not only the Labour Councillors in Preston are opposing the barrage and building development schemes - such as Jack Davenport, Bhikhu Patel, and John Swindells (see below for an excellent letter by Cllr Swindells) - but South Ribble Council are also listening to the evidence we have researched and made publicly available, and to the serious concerns raised by South Ribble residents, and seem to have forced a halt to the project.

The new political make-up in South Ribble occurred largely as a result of South Ribblers' concerns about Preston's plans for the Penwortham side of the river - and the successful South Ribble Conservatives campaigned about local concerns regarding Preston's plans for South Ribble - particularly the Riverworks plans for building a huge new urban conurbation on the Penwortham Green Belt and floodplain.

We are extremely pleased that our tireless research, and our innovative blogging and campaigning techniques to let the public know about the real impacts of what a barrage and building developments would mean for our River, environment, Green Belt, floodplains, riverbanks, allotments, sports pitches, and communities, have encouraged Councillors and Council Officials to start to listen, and begin to think about making informed decisions and take the only logical step of opposing the barrage and building development schemes.

Our hope now is that common sense prevails and the barrage and riverside building developments will be consigned from the drawing board to it's rightful place in the dustbin.

Mr Carr's statement will not be anywhere near clear enough for most Preston residents, especially those living in areas that would face an increased flood risk if the barrage and floodplain housing were built, and those who care deeply about the Ribble environment - the council must state absolutely whether the barrage and the associated housing plans are off the council agenda for good, or whether they will later be drawn back out of their coffin like a vampire in the absence of the clear sunlight of public attention, which has been focussed by the Save The Ribble campaign onto this dangerously stupid, irresponsible and highly unpopular project.

We also have major concerns that the Vision Board has still not abandoned it's plans to turn the Southern bank of the Ribble into a suburban extension of 'Greater Preston', there is no doubt that greedy developers have their eyes on this land, and that they still have strong influence over the future of our area.

According to the LEP, Mr Carr also said that what the Governments decides regarding 'targets for new homes' in the area 'would also guide the future of the riverside plans, which centre around new housing overlooking a marina created by the barrage'.

But surely targets for new homes don't specify that these need to be built on the banks of the river or on the Green Belt and floodplains?!!

Any new housebuilding in either Preston or South Ribble needs to avoid building in areas at high risk of flooding - as the Environment Agency advise. Otherwise the new houses and our existing homes will be at even greater risk of flooding, and our beautiful riverside areas, our football pitches and allotments, would be lost beneath tonnes of concrete, ruining their precious contribution to our environment as well as increasing the flood risk to our homes!!

South Ribble and Preston Councils must give a clear guarantee to the people that the greenbelt and floodplain land by the Ribble is sacrosanct, and will be kept as a beautiful green and natural area for the public to enjoy forever.

Also today, the LEP have published an excellent letter from Cllr John Swindells in which he states:

"Until May I was Preston City Council's cabinet member for environment and sustainability. During my term I discussed the Ribble barrage with many groups and organisations including the RSPB, Environment Agency, the Anglers Conservation Association etc. All these organisations were united in their total opposition to the barrage. In fact I never spoke to any organisation who voiced their support for the barrage."

you can click on the letter to read it in full...

Councillor Swindells continues:

"There followed the LEP survey where an overwhelming number of Prestonians were against the scheme.

I also attended conferences in Cardiff where I discussed the Cardiff Bay scheme. I discovered that the scheme had an original estimate of £40m but eventually cost £200m and now needs £20m per year spent on it to mitigate the environmental impact it has had.
Far from the saviour of Cardiff it has proved to be a millstone around the city's neck".

As far as the implications for the River Ribble are concerned, John Swindells continues:

"This year much of the flooding in England has been caused by land drains not being able to take the rainfall. The Ribble's land drains empty at low water, these drains will be permanently under water if the barrage is built. To remedy this the cost of new drains can only make the scheme uneconomic.

"With this floodtide of opposition and evidence I am staggered that the Vision Board continues to favour a feasibility study.

"Much of the Riverworks scheme has a lot going for it but the barrage would destroy a unique environment and would put Preston at severe risk of flooding".

In his letter Councillor Swindells raises a number of serious issues - not least the spectre of Preston Vision Board...

Whilst Preston Council have been forced to slow down on the barrage by having to listen to South Ribble's opinions on the issues, to whom are Preston Vision Board accountable...?

We watch and we wait, and meanwhile the Ribble continues to flow...

You can contact us at

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Preston City Council's Riverworks Position Statement October 07

This Thursday, 18th October, PCC’s Chief Executive Jim Carr will present a Position Statement about the Riverworks Project to both the City Centre Committee in the morning, and to the full Council meeting in the afternoon.

The Riverworks Position Statement is also available on Preston City Council’s website as part of the Agenda items, and the key issues are reproduced and discussed in turn below…

The Position statement puts Riverworks into 3 ‘dimensions’:

Riverside - the river and its environs
Quayside – the dock basin
Canalside – the Lancaster Canal

‘The top priority was the dock basin (Quayside) … because of the short to medium term concerns over the dock gates; the blue green algae problem; and a belief that the optimum development of the docks was not able to be achieved in the 1980s due to market conditions at the time…’

- We welcome any attempts to improve the dock basin as a public facility, and particularly to solve the blue green algae problem, and ensure that the dock gates are kept in a better state of repair to ensure the algae remains safely out of the river in the meantime!

‘The second priority was the river (Riverside)… [which] ranked behind the dock basin because in the main land ownership is not in local authority hands and there are no immediate problems to be solved. The technical feasibility work would investigate whether and how a barrage or other suitable structure could create an area of still water without causing damage to the river environment or property around.’

- The easy answer to this is YOU CAN’T!!

• As the Environment Agency have emphasised:

‘The presence of a barrage structure placed across the main water body automatically placed it at high risk of not achieving the WFD (Water Framework Directive) objectives.’ See Environment Agency on the Water Framework Directive and threats to the health of intertidal waters

The Water Framework Directive is the most substantial piece of European-wide water legislation to date. It aims to ensure all inland and coastal waters achieve ‘good’ status by 2015 in relation to its ecological status and the sustainability of our water resources for people. The River Ribble is the Environment Agency’s Pilot River Basin for the implementation of the Water Framework Directive in the UK.

• As the Anglers' Conservation Association have pointed out: ‘the experience from other barrages elsewhere in the country and the rest of the world should have demonstrated by now to anyone doing even a cursory review of the literature, that they are nearly always more costly to construct and maintain than originally envisaged and that they have severe impacts on the ecology of rivers on which so much of the local economy depends.

The ACA continue:
'To even consider such a scheme demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the dynamic nature of estuaries and the interdependence of marine, estuarial and riverine ecosystems. We would much rather see the Ribble estuary celebrated for its rich wildlife and natural qualities, rather than destroyed to create a boating lake and backdrop to development.’
See our earlier blog about the Ribble Fisheries Consultative Association's opposition to the Barrage proposal.

The Ribble Fisheries Consultative Association are unreservedly opposed to the Ribble barrage scheme as they argue that:

"The building of a barrage across the Ribble most certainly constitutes the greatest threat yet to migratory fish and would irrevocably change the ecology of the whole river system." See our blog

PCC’s Riverworks Position Statement continues by claiming that:

‘Still water would enable attractive promenades to be built alongside parts of the river and pursuits such as rowing re-established.’

-As we have already pointed out, an earlier study into the barrage idea shows that:

1. a barrage or weir will not necessarily enable the river to be navigable as the geological fall of the riverbed will mean that there would need to be 2 or 4 such structures, and even then parts of the river would remain shallow;

2. a barrage would still be subject to river conditions and the weirs would need to be left fully open for long periods to ensure local communities do not flood.

There is also the problem that concreting the river banks will destroy their ecological importance and be contrary to the UK and Lancashire Biodiversity Action Plans and destroy one of the most aesthetic aspects of the River Ribble, its largely unspoilt riverbanks – as well as increase the speed of the river and rendering it more dangerous!

Surely it makes much more sense to build a purpose-built lake for row-boating as this will not have to close for long periods of time due to high rainfall, will not interfere with the natural ecology of the river, and will not increase flood risk in the area – and will actually help increase our flood protection!

The bodies responsible for maintaining the ecological integrity of the River Ribble AND maintaining our flood protection produce the Ribble Shoreline Management Plan and the Ribble Integrated Catchment Management Plan, both of which point out that increasing our wetland provision of mudflats and saltmarsh and floodplain storage capacity is the most effective means of flood protection along the Ribble corridor.

The Riverworks Postion Statement continues by claiming:

‘It [the barrage] would also allow a mirror park on the opposite bank to Avenham & Miller Park to be laid out, creating a magnificent central park for the area with bridges linking the two elements’.

- At risk of pointing out the obvious, we don’t need to barrage the river to create a park on the Green Belt!!!

Whether the green belt on the Penwortham bank would benefit from having some of it turned into a formal park is a separate issue. There could certainly be a number of improvements to the area, such as more footpaths and benches and other public areas, and some special wildlife walks, sculpture trails and so on would undoubtedly be a great addition to the existing green facilities. But its real and intrinsic value to local communities and the environment is that it is already a quality green open space with a diverse range of habitats, wildlife, and facilities - including allotments and sports pitches, freely accessible to all members of the community. It also acts as the operational flood plain for a number of communities in South Ribble and Preston, so enhances our quality of life in a number of crucial ways.

Interestingly, the Riverworks Position Statement says:

‘When the intention to commission this study was announced a number of concerns were brought to our attention. Assurances were given that any feasibility work would fully take into account the concerns raised. In particular, statutory agencies concerned about existing flood risks and how they might be alleviated were interested in how the study could contribute to the body of knowledge that exists and potentially provide solutions’.

-But surely we really do have more than enough information about the impact of barrages, the crucial importance of the River Ribble as a natural, free-flowing ecosystem to the environment and to our flood protection strategies to spend the many £hundreds of thousands on projects which will be of benefit to those areas of Preston which really do need economic investment? Preston has some of the worst areas in the country in terms of deprivation and child poverty. Why aren't Preston City Council looking to spend these huge sums of money there?

As the Anglers' Conservation Association say:

It is particularly discouraging that money is being wasted on developing this scheme – even just examining its feasibility – as the experience from other barrages elsewhere in the country and the rest of the world should have demonstrated by now to anyone doing even a cursory review of the literature, that they are nearly always more costly to construct and maintain than originally envisaged and that they have severe impacts on the ecology of rivers on which so much of the local economy depends. To even consider such a scheme demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the dynamic nature of estuaries and the interdependence of marine, estuarial and riverine ecosystems. We would much rather see the Ribble estuary celebrated for its rich wildlife and natural qualities, rather than destroyed to create a boating lake and backdrop to development.’ See our full article here

The Riverworks Position Statement puts the ‘Latest Situation’ as:

‘The technical feasibility study for the Quayside [dock basin] is about to be commissioned.

‘The Riverside element has not been progressed and discussions are taking place between Preston and South Ribble on the whole concept under the auspices of the Local Development Framework (LDF). The outcome of these discussions will determine whether it is worthwhile applying for technical feasibility study funding from the NWDA.’

- Of course, when read alongside PCC’s Corporate Plan 2007/10 on the Council website, the ‘Project Outcomes’ of Riverworks in this document make the whole plan abundantly clear:

• Establishment [of] a planning framework (LDF) which encourages development and growth along the river corridor

• Development of new infrastructure serving the city core …

• Create a new central park and high quality river frontage

• Implement re-development of the areas south of the river

As the North West Development Agency (NWDA) have already pointed out, the North West’s Natural assets – green tourism opportunities – already boost the regional economy by £770m EVERY YEAR.

And they claim the Ribble - recently designated a Regional Park, Ribble Coast & Wetlands - will act as the Regional catalyst for new economic opportunities based on the growing eco-tourism industry.
The NWDA predict that the Ribble Coast & Wetlands Regional Park will create over 4,600 new jobs and generate at least £115 million EVERY YEAR from new visitors alone who will be attracted to the Ribble’s unique natural habitat and wildlife (Ribble Coast & Wetlands Outline Business Plan 2007/08-2009/10). So that’s on top of the £770 million our natural assets already attract…

A final point in the Riverworks Position statement reads:

‘The strategic flood risk assessment referred to in Councillor Davenport’s notice of motion [rejected by the Council when Councillor Davenport asked them to halt progress on Riverworks to allow the flood risk assessment to be implemented first] is not yet available so I am not able to comment on its implications in this report. In due course, no doubt the outcome will inform the discussions on the LDF and, therefore, ultimately the reasonableness or not of proceeding to a study’.

- Knowing what we do about the importance of the River Ribble as a free-flowing river in terms of protecting our communities from flooding as well as making its own significant contribution to the ecological and economic importance of the North West, we watch and wait…

There is no mention in the Riverworks Position statement regarding any moves on the Canalside elements, so we presume these are still in the very early stages. We would urge Preston City Council to drop the Ribble barrage and their attempts to build on the Ribble's banks and green spaces and concentrate on improving the docks and reinstating the canal - both schemes will be of benefit to our abilities to access these spaces WITHOUT ruining THE MOST IMPORTANT ASSET OF THE RIBBLE CORRIDOR - THE RIVER RIBBLE!!!!

You can read more about Why Keeping The River Ribble as a Free-Flowing Intertidal River is Important;

Why a Barrage will NOT protect us from flooding;

The economic and environmental costs of barrages;

Why the Ribble’s Mudflats & Saltmarsh are so important to wildlife and protect us from flooding;

Why Our Wetlands are Important to our Economy, Our Environment, and to protect us from flooding.

You can contact us at

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Preston Councillors Denounce City's 'Three Wise Monkeys' Approach To Flood Risk

Click here to enlarge

Riversway's Labour Councillors, Jack Davenport, Linda Crompton and Bhikhu Patel have been distributing a hard-hitting leaflet around the ward recently, denouncing the failure of the City Council to debate the flood risk posed by Broadgate's old and dilapidated flood defences and by the inadequate and poorly maintained storm drainage in the area.

Jack Bavenport is quoted as saying " This really shows the contempt that the Tories and Lib Dems have for the people of this City. Serious concerns were raised about the drainage system in Hull, and we have had flooding in Riversway this year for similar reasons. It seems that the interests of the people of this City take second place to the interests of private business and faceless bodies like the Preston Vision Board"

The leaflet uses a picture of recent flooding in Middleforth, taken from original material published on the 'Save The Ribble' Blog - Hey Labour Party - we don't mind people using quotes and photographs from this blog, providing they are being used to further the interests of our river and the people who live nearby - but next time please be polite enough to credit the source of your photo - The Save The Ribble Campaign!

You can read 'Save The Ribble's' coverage of the Council's decision not to debate flood risk here

You can read 'Save The Ribble's' investigation of the state of Preston's flood defences here.

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