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.

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 savetheribble@tiscali.co.uk

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