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, 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...

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At 1:34 am, Blogger Riversider said...

Fantastic news, a real result for local people blogging in the face of powerful interests.

In the past schemes like this would have been pushed through by powerful people behind closed doors. Now Citizen Bloggers like the Save The Ribble Campaign bring the full glare of public scrutiny onto these decisions, and those who are used to power without accountability really do not like it!

The very fact that Preston City Council and the Vision Board should consider such a dangerous, irresponsible and damaging measure as a barrage across the Ribble destroys any credibility they have as custodians of our precious environment. The fact that Carr was unable to admit that the barrage idea was stupid and environmentally unsound, but used weasel words instead to back off from these ideas merely reinforces this impression.

The danger remains that the barrage idea could be resurrected in the future, and an even greater danger exists that the beautiful green land on the Southern bank of the Ribble could be built over and turned into just another city suburb as part of the Vision Board's City expansion plans.

There therefore remains much for the Save The Ribble Campaign to do - we need to stay vigilant to defend our river, it's precious wildlife, the green land that lines it banks and the people who live nearby from greedy and ruthless developers and their friends in political office.

At 10:21 am, Blogger Reigh Belisama said...

Whilst this IS positive news, the fight is not yet over as they are only slowing down the progress, which will now be subject to what South Ribble Council decide about whether to progress, so we will see what happens over the coming weeks and months...

At 7:56 am, Blogger Dogs Dad said...

Looks like good news, but as you say it is worth making sure South Ribble continue to get the message that building on the flood plain should not happen.

I was also encouraged to see in the LEP article that Preston City ARE wanting to progress some aspects of the River Works scheme, namely sorting out the algea ridden mess at Preston Docks. The docks, and associated riverside walks in that specific area, such as down to Savick Brook, could be a far better with a little TLC.


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