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, January 22, 2007

Riversway Councillor's Consultation - The Save The Ribble Response

Save The Ribble welcomes the fact that some local councillors are asking local people their opinions in a consultation about proposed developments on the Docks. This is not an official Preston Council consultation but one organised by local Councillors in some wards of Preston only, in response to residents' concerns, and it is taking place above and beyond any consultation exercise Preston Council may engage in, should it do so at some point in the future...

We also welcome the principled stand of
John Swindells, who has gone one step further and said that he will oppose the Riverworks Barrage proposal. We hope other councillors will soon start listening to and representing the interests of their electors by emulating Councillor Swindells.

In the Docks consultation exercise, we welcome that the individual aspects of the Riverworks proposals are being treated as individual proposals as some elements of the overall project may have some merit. As such, each needs to be presented to the public as individual consultation exercises.
However it is disappointing that we are not being consulted on the issues that most concern residents first: the ideas of a Barrage across the Ribble and 4000 houses in its green belt and floodplain... but it appears that the proposals which affect the Docks are on the agenda first...

The Docks consultation is to be welcomed, but unfortunately it is very limited as only a relatively small percentage of Preston households are being asked their opinion, the information it provides is rather sketchy, and it does not really explain what the proposals are in any detail, thus it raises more questions than it answers...

We will give the best response to the Councillors' Docks consultation we can, given the sketchiness of the consultation document's own information, alongside the lack of information about the development proposals from Preston Council officials and the Vision Board, or any details about what their plans actually are, other than "sound-bite" proposals. UPDATE: see comments section below for clarification about why the current Docks consultation is vague about the proposals, and Councillor Davenport's intentions to broaden the scope and depth of this consultation in the near future...

But first, in order to think about the future, we need to learn from the past - how did we get where we are today?

A huge development took place on the Docks in the 1980s. Many of us remember the brave promises that the council made at the time - many very similar to those that are supposed to be in the current Riverworks proposals where Sports Arenas, Entertainment Zones and great floating platforms all seem to be on the agenda.

The development we got in the 1980s, however, was mired in allegations of corruption and undemocratic practices. The Docks development we got was a pale shadow of what we were promised.

According to David Borrow, now an MP,


'There were major failings in the way the council handled aspects of the Riversway development and various building contracts and land deals."

The Operation Angel investigation into the allegations of corruption found

"inappropriate and, in some cases, criminal behaviour by a small number of officers and members."

None of those involved in the allegations of corruption and criminal behaviour were ever identified. Nobody was sacked, no councillors resigned from their seats. No apology was given to the people of Preston, who saw £millions of pounds in public money lost, and instead of the wonderful facilities they had been promised, got a few shed-like superstores and a housing development: the needs or wishes of local people had not been considered, and pedestrian and safe cycling access was (and remains) dire.

We hope that although no-one was ever convicted, no-one was sacked, no-one resigned and no apology was given, that Preston Council at least made an effort to learn the lessons of the scandal - procedures should have been put in place so that future developments, for example, should be run much more democratically and transparently, with clear lines of accountability to the public.

Two decades later however, we have Preston Council putting together multi-million pound proposals with an unelected 'Vision Board' and outside Consultancy agencies, with publications and proceedings kept away from the scrutiny of local people and even of elected councillors, queries from the public unanswered, requests for information refused, legitimate concerns dismissed as "scaremongering"...

One job for our local councillors then, is to challenge any secretive practices, to make sure that everything the Council and the Vision Board says and does is open to the public view.

We turn to the questions in the consultation itself:

The first question is related to the idea of building on floating platforms in the Dock basin itself:

This seems an attractive idea at first, particularly to those of us old enough to remember the 'Manxman'... and sounds like it has potential, although it does seem a shame to effectively reduce the size of the Dock basin itself rather than better utilise the land around it.

Such platforms would, however, bring the public into much closer proximity to the water and therefore to the toxic Blue Green Algae that infests the area, so questions need to be asked concerning the safety of these proposals, and the eradication of the Algae. The persistence of the Docks' Blue Green Algae infestation (which has now been present for many years) is evidence of the difficulty in eradicating this toxic substance from impounded water. If Preston City Council cannot manage to eradicate it from this stretch of water after many years, we wonder how they expect to be able to manage, prevent, and treat Blue Green Algae blooms and other water quality issues that would affect the River Ribble if this is also impounded by a barrage... ?

The second question is about the lack of true public leisure facilities in the Dock area - which is dominated by retail outlets: This is an area where we hope our Councillors will strongly argue for better leisure resources, for local people and visitors - BUT THIS MUST NOT BE AT THE EXPENSE OF EXISTING LEISURE FACILITIES - such as our local football pitches at Penwortham Holme, Vernons and Frenchwood Rec, which must NOT be built over in return for the promise of facilities on the Docks. By all means provide extra facilities, but not at the expense of our existing ones!

Question three relates to the very poor pedestrian access to the Docks: Anything that the council can do to improve pedestrian - and safer cycling - access to this area will be more than welcomed.

Question four relates to environmental issues: - Our key environmental point is that any development on the Docks must not affect the River Ribble in any way. The Ribble is a very precious, environmentally-sensitive habitat for a huge range of local and international bird and fish species, and also offers local people a beautiful 'breathing space'. This needs to be protected at all costs.
It is difficult to comment on any other environmental aspects of the docks' development proposals (other than the Blue Green Algae discussed above) as the details of what is being proposed have not been presented...

Question five is about any other issues we wish to raise - but only about the development of the Docks: Improving the Docks as a leisure facility is generally to be welcomed - with the proviso that none of the proposed developments impact in any way on the River Ribble itself, or our green belt and flood plain areas, or existing local sports pitches... and improving access to the Docks for pedestrians and cyclists is also very much to be welcomed.

Further questions would inevitably be raised if we had been given details of what the proposed 'leisure and entertainment uses' might be; the proposed 'attractions for visitors'; or the 'indoor and outdoor events', but as these are only concepts without detail, it is difficult to comment... we can only reiterate our concerns that ANY developments, events, facilities, uses, or attractions, on the Docks should not impact on the River Ribble or our green belt and flood plain areas...
... If, for example, any of these developments are dependent upon a Ribble Barrage, or involve development on our green belt and floodplain, or involve the loss of other local sports facilities, then we would reject them;
If, for example, there were to be water-based activities involving speedboats or jetskis on the Docks, we would not want this to spill out onto the River to disrupt the peace and quiet of the River itself - with or without a Barrage...

Any other issues we would wish to raise about the central concerns we have regarding certain aspects of the Riverworks proposals are that:

- Any barrier to spate water flowing downriver (such as the proposed barrage) will also increase the risk of flooding all along the Ribble corridor, particularly those communities local to the proposed water sports park such as Riversway, Middleforth, Penwortham, Frenchwood, and Walton le Dale Residents. Our councillors should openly oppose this. To represent local peoples' interests properly, they should be pressing council leaders to make a clear statement that they no longer intend to build the Ribble Barrage or any new housing in its floodplain.

- Other parts of the Riverworks proposals are also causing concern, such as concreting the riverbanks from Frenchwood through to Brockholes for boat moorings, which would destroy vital riverbank habitat for the Ribble's wildlife inhabitants, and ruin one of the many aesthetic attractions of the riverbank for visitors and local people alike. This would also cause changes to the rivers' flow as water flows much faster past concrete than riverbank muds and vegetation.

- We want to point out that building 4000 houses on greenbelt land next to the Ribble would destroy a beautiful green area which is not only home to our local sports pitches, but our allotments, woodlands, meadows, and our beautiful countryside - and also happens to protect us from flooding. More of our councillors should openly and energetically oppose any developments which threaten this irreplaceable local resource.

Update: We welcome Councillor Davenport's comments in the Comments section below. Read what he has to say and email him with your views about what you would and would not like to see in these development proposals at ribbleconsultation@tiscali.co.uk

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Ribble Events

Visit RSPB Marshside or other areas on the River Ribble this Winter to see the fantastic array of wild birds who rely on the rich Ribble mudflats every year!
The RSPB also run a number of special events - so GET RIBBLING!!

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The Preston Bird Watching & Natural History Society commence their 115th consecutive Winter Season of lectures on Monday 24th September. Non-members are welcome.
For details visit the Preston Society website.

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On Saturday 4th August, we hosted one of the first events in the Ribble Coast & Wetlands Regional Park Walking Festival, walking upriver to the Wildlife Trust's new Brockholes Wetland Nature Reserve.


The Ribble at Mete House and Mellings Wood, looking towards Brockholes...

For pictures and the full story, see our blog article here.








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The RSPB run a number of events throughout the year, from hands-on crafts to talks to Walks!

See RSPB Marshside and RSPB Lancashire Events for details...

We can't wait for Hesketh Out Marsh to join the Events list...!

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The Wildlife Trust also run various events including at the Fishwick Bottoms Local Nature Reserve, and the new Brockholes Wetland Nature Reserve on the Ribble!!

You can email us with your experiences on these events or contact us with your Ribble views at savetheribble@tiscali.co.uk and we'll put them on the blog!

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Thanks to all of you for spending a Spring day by the Riverbank instead of being stuck at work!



Local Ribbleside residents in Penwortham and Preston organised a Spring Clean for the riverbanks in Broadgate and Penwortham for Friday 8th June...

We litter-picked and removed the invasive plant species Himalayan Balsam, which suppresses native British plant species on the riverbanks. We also got help from the Ribble Basin Campaign, South Ribble BC & Lancashire CC, although unfortunately the Environment Agency were unable to come and help at the last minute, clearing the junk which has accumulated on the mudflats with special gear to drag the huge metal frames and other debris out of the mud. We managed to clear some ourselves, however, and will endeavour to arrange another date for the mudflats to be cleared soon...




If you would like to join us for any Save The Ribble Events, please email us at savetheribble@tiscali.co.uk.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

The River Wild

The River Ribble is not a pretty chocolate-box river - she is beautiful, wild and free, her moods changing from calm to stormy in hours...


This isn't the sea on a stormy Winter's day, it's the River Ribble, in spate and flowing between Preston and Penwortham to the sea...

These pictures were taken today, 18th January 07, from high tide until 2 hours later...


...walking downriver from Priory Park in Penwortham - where huge waves were whipped into spray by the high winds...


... and it was difficult to believe that the tide had been going OUT for over an hour at this point...


... walking back upriver over an hour later, by Liverpool Road Bridge the surface was more calm but flowing down towards the sea at high speed, drowning the riverside footpath here near the allotments...


... and Broadgate sails by as the Ribble speeds on her way to the sea...


...and trees are carried down towards the sea on the Ribble's spate waters at high speed...


... and Leyland Rd is very close indeed, here near the Bridge Inn...


... the Riverside footpath on the Penwortham side has disappeared altogether under the flood waters...


- careful with that poop scoop -


...the bench usually overlooks the Ribble here, set back from the river's edge by several metres, but today it is swamped by the spate waters, despite high tide being 2 hours earlier...


... to compare with low tide and little rain a couple of weeks earlier, these joggers are passing the same benches...


- the high rainfall and high river level means the water table rises -


- including on Margaret Rd, but luckily the spate waters will drain down to the sea in a matter of hours, allowing the water table to subside too...


... the drains backing up and spraying water out are an impressive sight (but only if not in your kitchen or back garden!)...


Long Live the Ribble Wild!

savetheribble@tiscali.co.uk

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Tales and Pictures from the Riverbank



A selection of the many emails, photographs and pictures sent to Save The Ribble over recent weeks, edited here and there for space so apologies - You obviously have alot to say!
Some of the letters have also been published in the Lancashire Evening Post...

All photos by Greg, from dawn til dusk, including the fantastic opening picture above, taken from the Tram Bridge at dawn - well worth clicking on this one for a closer look...


Another fabulous picture from "I", who "does not like noisy and fast jet-skis and knows the swans on the Ribble won't like them either". I's mum "R" says: "People want to hear the Ribble river when they are walking beside it and not machines. They can go into town for that. I love the sound of water moving..."




Broadgate

Greg S, Broadgate resident, says...
"I appreciated the fairness of [LEP] leader article of 3rd January although I felt the news coverage in the same issue relied over much on the viewpoints, language and press releases of Mike Brogan and the Preston Vision Board.

Ever since I first heard of the Riverworks Project I (as a riverside resident) have been convinced of two things : Firstly that any barrage or weir that destroys the flowing stream and the tidal nature of the Ribble would be an environmental disaster, especially for the precious wildlife living there. Secondly that destroying the greenbelt on the Penwortham side by the injudicious building of housing on the floodplain would rob us of one of the greatest attractions of our neighbourhood.
Open country so close to our city is probably the greatest environmental asset we have (and my dog and hundred's of others agree!).


It's a dog's life...


There may well be a number of good ideas for useful urban regeneration to be found elsewhere in the Riverworks report. We could certainly make more of the River Corridor, Canal and Docks in economically beneficial and environmentally sensitive ways. How about for example developing the docks rail corridor into a tram system with a huge new park and ride at the western edge of the city...?
...However, it is hard to judge the value of the proposals since until now the report appears to have been treated as a top secret document....

...the unelected Vision Board who most probably represent big business, and well paid planning consultants and senior council officers much more than local residents, have shot themeslves in the foot by denying us the chance for proper consultation at an early stage.
They may not wish "to raise false hopes or fears" over a pre-feasility study, but they have achieved just that in a remarkable way by their cowardly secrecy. An early consultation would make it clear from the outset what the public will or will not stomach. It would probably knock on the head any crazy ideas such as a barrage, without the need to waste further public money on investigating the idea. And it might generate a number of exciting and more feasible suggestions for improvement from the people who know the neighbourhood far better than any of the external consultants.

At least some of our local councillors... have not yet sold out to the Vision Board's ideas and are engaging in the debate. I am no fan of New Labour either at the national or local level, but it is to the credit of the local members for Riversway ward that they have invited residents to contribute, in a fairly open ended way to a consultation exercise covering at least a part of the Riverworks proposal. It is to be hoped that many local people will make their views heard, that the council will listen carefully and respond to the good sense of the majority of local people who oppose much of the scheme.

The Bible tells us that "without a vision the people perish". I fear that with the mistaken and blurred vision of the Vision Board it will be Preston's people who suffer, and the river Ribble that will die."





Aidan TB pointedly asks significant questions about Preston Vision Board in his letter - also published in the LEP 15th January...
"Who are the Preston Vision Board? What right to they have to plan to build on our Green Belt and to increase flood risk to my riverside home?

Who are the Board’s members? How many are they? Do any members have interests with architects and development companies? Do any of the Board manage large property portfolios in the city? Are any Board members directors of local companies? Are the interests of the Board members declared on a public register? Are Board members subject to Local Government Standards regulations? Who selected them and on what basis? How can they be dismissed or replaced? Can I be one please? How many Board members are women, disabled, below 30 or from Preston’s ethnic groups? Are there any representatives from environmental and community groups on the Board? Are there any elected councillors on the Board? Who are they? Are Board members all Preston residents or do some live outside the City Council area? What right do non-Prestonians have to plan the future of our city?

Why are the minutes and reports of meetings secret? Why are their Plans not published? Why do they seem to avoid Freedom of Information requests? If their Vision for Preston is so good why not publish it on a web site? Why don’t they list their membership and contact details on the internet? Why do they avoid public debate and open information? Why do Preston planners seem to hide behind the Board claiming confidentiality for very important strategic planning proposals?

Are they paid expenses? How much are they paid? Who pays them? How much have they been paid so far? Are their meetings serviced by Preston City Council officers? For how many hours a month and at what cost is the Board supported by Council Tax payers?

Is the Board working with consultants and developers drafting the Riverworks proposals? Who are these companies? How much have they been paid so far?

What is the legal status of the Vision Board? Does it have a constitution and published remit? Is it a charity, a local authority agency, a limited company or what? Does it report to the whole Council or a specific cabinet member? Which one? Are Board members liable for damage and loss as a result of their plans? If the value of my house is reduced because the Board wants to build houses on Frenchwood Recreation Ground and on Green Belt outside Preston can I sue them for damages caused by planning blight? Are their plans available for conveyancing properties and for House Information Packs?
I challenge the Preston Vision Board to reply to my questions."


A Ribble Autumn...

Local people like Mike W understand the nature of the Ribble, in all seasons, weather, and moods, and raise seriously important questions about just some of the impacts of a Ribble barrage...
"...I'm concerned about the practicalities of the height of the barrage and hence the length of the 'lake' above it... I'm not that sure that [the planners] know what the Ribble is really capable of, both in terms of spate water coming down from the hills, and coming up the estuary on a big spring tide.


Ribble floodplain
For example, I was fishing down at Walton Le Dale early in September on the day of the biggest spring tide of the year and the river level there was raised by a good 6 feet, so much so that another 4 or 5 foot and it would have reached the top of its banks, yet there was absolutely no extra water in the river at the time as there was no rain higher up...
...where will the end of the lake above the barrage be? As far as I can see, it will be completely swamped by a big tide, plus if it's really enormous you've got to consider the volume of water coming down river and up with the tide that now has to go somewhere else (is it the idea that the marshes lower down will somehow take the extra tide water? Where will the spate water go?)... as far as I can see no one has been considering this sort of issue. It's always very much what is happening on dry land, which is what you might very much expect from people that are not in touch with the Ribble as a river and its many moods... have any of these people ever seen the river in spate? You can be fishing at the waters edge in the summer then happen to glance up, and see rubbish in the tree branches 10 or more feet above your head from where it's been left from major floods e.g. like this November.

I would love to know how the barrage is going to cope with this, because at certain times it's going to be as if it's not there... it doesn't have the capacity to cope with all the water coming down...the barrage can't be higher than the current river bank, surely? ...why bother building it, and taking the risk of affecting the environment, especially down river of the barrage?

What is the idea of concretising the banks of the river all the way up to Lower Brockholes all about?... and at what cost? ...To moor boats at Fishwick Bottoms, say the 200/300 yard straight stretch above London Road before you reach the first set of rapids, the river will need to permanently raised as from about half way up it's only a few inches deep on the inside due to gravel deposition (the deeper water is all on the Walton Le Dale side)...A big spring tide can raise the level there by up to 6 feet...[but] most tides only affect London Road by a few inches, and some not at all...
The height of the barrage must be enough so that boats can be moored at the bottom end of Fishwick Bottoms, yet a 'lake' that seriously raises the level at the bottom of Mellings Wood would be overlapping the banks down at London Road due to the drop in the river, while any plans to moor boats at Lower Brockholes are a pure pipe-dream, for the same reason.



...plus there is the issue of where does all the water go that would otherwise go upstream of the barrage, raising the level of the river by an average of several feet for several miles on a big tide? (Personally I think this issue is enough to rule out the idea of a flood relief type barrier further up river as there'll be nowhere for the water to go, except over the barrier and onto a river that's already held at spring tide level, plus there's the question of flood water coming down as well...)

Also, re concretising the banks for boats, do they know about the trees that regularly come down in the floods? Any moorings are going to have to enclosed marina types to protect the boats from trees otherwise they'll simply get smashed up, plus the 'lake' will still be flowing very quickly indeed in flood type conditions. It's still got to go somewhere and I would recommend the people putting the plans together go down to London Road when there's a serious spate on, and think how they're going to persuade boat owners to moor their boats in such a flow of water.

I've been fishing the river for over 25 years now. Currently the river is dominated by species that thrive in faster flowing water. What will happen is that there will be a migration of species preferring slower water to the miles immediately above the barrage, while the Ribble's faster water species would move to where the natural river starts again. There might be a temporary boost to barbel fishing above this point, but further down the river would be fairly devoid of fish because the river simply doesn't have that many slower water type species...
I'm not a salmon angler at all, but I would be worried about the effect on the salmon fishing. Any fish that become disorientated because of the lack of flow most of the time, would not make it up river, and slowly but surely the salmon fishing would die. The Ribble is a very fine salmon river indeed. It may not get the publicity of other rivers but for those that are in the know it is very good indeed -you see enough of them leaping about the place when you're coarse fishing... and the Ribble is also apparently a superb river for sea trout, which I also believe are an endangered species."


As Save The Ribble have pointed out, Atlantic Salmon is the 10th Most Threatened animal species in Europe, and, whilst a barrage on the Ribble would need to accommodate this and other migratory fish species by including fish runs, this does not fully mitigate the risk that the barrage itself presents to one of the most important Salmon habitats in Europe as many other factors than passage will also be affected, such as water flow, predation, habitat, water quality, and siltation...






Thanks for all your beautiful pictures and pertinent comments
You can see here for more Tales and Pictures of the Riverbank here, and here and here and here!

Contact savetheribble@tiscali.co.uk

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Riverworks: Preston City Council Ties Itself In Knots

Faced with local peoples' anger, and the opposition of councillors like John Swindells to the ideas of a Ribble Barrage and 4000 houses in the Ribble Floodplain, leading figures in Preston City Council now seem to be backtracking and trying to imply that they had nothing to do with these ideas from the Riverworks proposals, that they are all the work of the Preston Vision Board and the North West Development Agency, and that they have no status in Preston City Council Policy.

However they are being so evasive about their own role in the Riverworks Initiative, that they have ended up making contradictory statements.

The Position Statement Document (click to enlarge and read in full)

In this 'Position Statement' writen on 28/11/06, and distributed to every councillor, they make no mention of Preston City Council or South Ribble Borough Council's role in initiating and promoting the Riverworks proposals (blaming it all instead on the NWDA, Lancashire County Developments Limited and the 'Independent' Vision Board) and say that


'Riverworks is not part of any policy currently being implemented by Preston and South Ribble Councils'.


This is very strange, because if you look on Preston City Council's own website, you will see that they say
"Preston City Council and South Ribble Borough Council are working on a joint vision to maximise the true potential of the River Ribble...Both Preston and South Ribble Councils are supporting the Riverworks initiative and are now in consultation with the North West Development Agency on ways and means of moving the project on to the next stage."


So which way is it Preston City Council? Is Riverworks 'not part of any council policy', or are you doing your utmost to find 'ways and means to move the project onto the next stage'?

GVA Grimley, who call themselves Preston City Councils 'key adviser' and who are a leading consultancy involved in the Riverworks Initiative, are
"a retained advisor to Preston City Council in providing specialist consultancy support for their Economic Regeneration Strategy and Priority Action Plan for the Preston Vision Board"

They are working for BOTH Preston City Council AND the Vision Board, and there doesn't seem to be a very clear line where one begins and the other ends (except when Save The Ribble ask to see documents produced by the Vision Board - then we are told that they are nothing to do with the council and cannot be released to local people!)

The leaders of Preston City Council (and South Ribble Borough Council) cannot wriggle out of it, or like Pontius Pilate wash their hands of their involvement. They are 100% responsible for all the ideas in the Riverworks proposals, including the Riverworks Barrage and Housing Ideas, and if they wished, they could publicly renounce any intention of ever building such a barrage, or any housing in the river's floodplain.

If Preston City Council were to make a clear statement that they have no intention of building the Ribble Barrage, or of building 4000 houses in the floodplain of the River Ribble, they would put an end to most of the controversy around their Riverworks proposals - why do they not do this?

What they have done instead, is to 'subcontract' their policy and decision making process to the unelected luminaries of the Vision Board, and to take it away from more democratic and open forums where elected councillors could do the job they were elected to do by scrutinising, questioning and influencing the proposals and those working on them, on behalf of their constituents.

The amount of money concerned lies between £650 million and £800 million. The decisions made will irreversibly change the future of our city, and the environment of our river, for miles both upstream and downstream of any barrage. The huge amount at stake should mean that the Riverworks ideas and their architects should be subject to the most open, accountable and democratic process possible, instead of being hidden from the scrutiny of local people and their elected representatives.



If more councillors do not come forward and demand the fundamental right of local people and their elected representatives to be involved in this process from the beginning, not when it is already too late, the ordinary people of Preston and South Ribble certainly will.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Riverworks "Undemocratic": Michael Lavalette

Another councillor has joined the ranks of those on Preston City Council with serious objections to the Riverworks Barrage and Floodplain housing ideas.

Last week we reported how Councillor Swindells, a Labour Cabinet Member for the Environment and Sustainability had written in to the Lancashire Evening Post to say that "the formation of a weir/barrage is a step too far...the River Ribble is a joy to behold and a precious gift to all of us that we should not do anything to change without the backing of all Prestonians".

The Riversway Labour councillors, Bhiku Patel, Jack Davenport and Linda Crompton are on record as saying about the Riverworks Proposals "Not all the ideas may be appropriate to this area" and that "many of the ideas look promising, while others seem barely feasible".

And today we read of how the secrecy and lack of democracy or accountability that surrounds the Riverworks ideas has angered Respect Party Councillor Michael Lavalette.

Councillor Lavalette is frustrated at the lack of democratic accountability displayed by those behind the Riverworks proposals

His letter which you can also read on the Lancashire Evening Post Website states
"At recent council meetings I have asked questions about the proposals, about removal of green space and about various rumours regarding 'development' to recreational and historic sites in the City. Each time the response from the Cabinet was 'there are no proposals for change' 'nothing is happening'...but now the Evening Post confirms what many of us suspected".

He goes on to say "It seems full council is no longer the place where councillors are informed of decisions about our city. These decisions, taken by unelected boards... are relayed to ordinary councillors via the press. What is happening to democracy and democratic accountability - under Labour in Preston?"

Councillor Lavalette's letter to the Lancashire Evening Post. (Click on the image to enlarge it)

Preston City Councillors have been known to debate for hours about the redesignation of a parking zone or the rerouting of a bus, so it seems outrageous that this Councillor should feel he is being kept in the dark about a scheme that could cost upwards of £650 million, with the barrage on its own potentially costing £50 million. It seems traditional in Preston that the larger the amount of money and the greater the environmental stakes, the less openness, democracy and accountability there is in the decision making process.

We are sure there are many more councillors, in Preston, South Ribble, and other areas that would be affected by the proposals who are uneasy and unhappy about the flood risk and threat to the environment posed by ideas like a barrage or floodplain housing, and by the secretive conduct of the unelected 'Vision' Board - it is time for these councillors, and everyone else who wants to stop the Ribble barrage and greenbelt housing ideas to come forward and make their views known, before it is too late...

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Monday, January 08, 2007

A Flood of Letters

The local anger over the way that Preston City Council is considering the building of a barrage across the Ribble and 4000 houses in it's floodplain is growing stronger, particularly since the Save The Ribble Blog was featured in The Guardian, and in this front page article in the Lancashire Evening Post.

Pressure of public opinion seems to be opening divisions within the council, with Councillor John Swindells taking his job title seriously as Cabinet Member for the Environment by writing in to the LEP to remind his fellow councillors that they are custodians of the local environment and have a deep responsiblity to protect our river and it's wildlife that outweighs any potential commercial gain, sentiments that Freckleton Parish Council and Fylde Borough Council may well applaud.

Others who have written to the paper include Greg Smith, well known locally for his work with St Stephen's Church and the Salvation Army, and nationally as a leading Christian writer on Urban Ministry.

He has written this powerful letter to the Lancashire Evening Post, which we shamelessly lift in full from his blog 'Gregs New Blog - Credo' (we recommend you follow THIS LINK to his blog as he has also posted some eye-meltingly beautiful new images of the Ribble):

Dear Sir

I appreciated the fairness of you leader article of 3rd January although I felt the news coverage in the same issue relied over much on the viewpoints, language and press releases of Mike Brogan and the Preston Vision Board. Ever since I first heard of the Riverworks Project I (as a riverside resident) have been convinced of two things:

Firstly that any barrage or weir that destroys the flowing stream and the tidal nature of the Ribble would be an environmental disaster, especially for the precious wildlife living there.

Secondly that destroying the greenbelt on the Penwortham side by the injudicious building of housing on the floodplain would rob us of one of the greatest attractions of our neighbourhood. Open country so close to our city is probably the greatest environmental asset we have (and my dog and hundred's of others agree!).


There may well be a number of good ideas for useful urban regeneration to be found elsewwhere in the Riverworks report. We could certainly make more of the River Corridor, Canal and Docks in economically beneficial and environmentally sensitive ways. How about for example developing the docks rail corridor into a tram system with a huge new park and ride at the western edge of the city and a wall across the Blackpool Road to keep out unwanted polluting traffic from the Fylde?

However, it is hard to judge the value of the proposals since until now the report appears to have been treated as a top secret document. It seems to me the unelected Vision Board who most probably represent big business, and well paid planning consultants and senior council officers much more than local residents, have shot themeslves in the foot by denying us the chance for proper consultation at an early stage. They may not wish "to raise false hopes or fears" over a pre-feasility study, but they have achieved just that in a remarkable way by their cowardly secrecy.

An early consultation would make it clear from the outset what the public will or will not stomach. It would probably knock on the head any crazy ideas such as a barrage, without the need to waste further public money on investigating the idea. And it might generate a number of exciting and more feasible suggestions for improvement from the people who know the neighbourhood far better than any of the external consultants.

At least some of our local councillors, claim that they have not yet sold out to the Vision Board's ideas and are engaging in the debate. I am no fan of New Labour either at the national or local level, but it is to the credit of the local members for Riversway ward that they have invited residents to contribute, in a fairly open ended way to a consultation exercise covering at least a part of the Riverworks proposal. It is to be hoped that many local people will make their views heard, that the council will listen carefully and respond to the good sense of the majority of local people who oppose much of the scheme.

The Bible tells us that "without a vision the people perish". I fear that the with the mistaken and blurred vision of the Vision Board it will be Preston's people who suffer, and the river Ribble that will die.


Go Greg! We look forward to reading your letter when it reaches the LEP letters page!

Our campaign is open to everyone who loves their local river and wants to stop building in the Ribble greenbelt, we have previously posted on the importance of the Ribble to Sikhs, Mormons and all kinds of other people.

Sending letters to the LEP, other local newspapers and even the 'Save The Ribble' Blog is a powerful way of spreading the pro-Ribble message. Why not take a leaf out of Greg's book, and let the world know your opinions about the Ribble Barrage and Floodplain Housing ideas!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

CITY COUNCILLOR SUPPORTS SAVE THE RIBBLE CAMPAIGN

Councillor John Swindells who represents University Ward on Preston City Council has expressed support for the Save the Ribble Campaign and has urged local residents to get involved in the debate about Riverworks.

Councillor Swindells: taking a principled stand for the River Ribble.

In a recent letter sent to the Lancashire Evening Post, Councillor Swindells explains his concerns for the future of the River Ribble and the threat posed by aspects of the Riverworks scheme:

“As cabinet member for environment & sustainability I welcome the decision of my fellow Labour councillors in Riversway to start the consultation on the Riverworks project and I urge all Prestonians to get involved in the debate.

Whilst welcoming many of the proposals to enhance the dock I personally feel the formation of a weir / barrage is a step too far. With the planet under threat as never before we should be doing all we can to preserve and conserve our precious environment.

The River Ribble is a joy to behold and a precious gift to us all that we should not do anything to change without the backing of all Prestonians.

As councillors we are custodians of our environment for what is a brief moment of history. If we were to go ahead we would change a precious eco system in and instant. An eco system that could not ever be replaced.

I will do everything I can to make sure that the right thing is done for the River Ribble and would urge all Prestonians to make their views heard.

We have this one chance to do so. To change the river would be a leap in the dark and one we should not countenance.

I would hope that we make our views clear that the environment should not be changed for economic gain it is far too precious to do that.”


Councillor Swindells' Letter to the Lancashire Evening Post (Click on image to enlarge)

Councillor Swindells shares our view that the River Ribble and surrounding green belt should not be sacrificed in the name of economic development.

We welcome Councillor Swindells clear statement and hope that other local councillors who are concerned about aspects of Riverworks and the potential threat to our environment will also make their views public.

Councillor Swindells is also urging residents to take part in consultation on Riverworks and local development issues.

Save the Ribble Campaign has long argued for the need for Preston City Council to undertake consultation on the Riverworks project. However, we also believe that meaningful consultation on the Riverworks proposals has to be inclusive of all the communities affected by the options under consideration. The Central Park Development will have an impact on Penwortham and Walton-le-Dale as well as Preston and the barrage option will affect all communities along the Ribble corridor from the Fylde and up to Ribchester and beyond.

There are also very significant environmental concerns which are beyond the scope of a residents consultation and which will require a full environmental impact assessment and full consultation with concerned environmental groups (such as RSPB, Fisheries and other wildlife groups) before decisions are taken to progress the Barrage and Floodplain Housing proposals any further.

We have urged residents elsewhere on this blog to take part in consultation on the Local Development Framework (LDF). Councillor Swindells believes that the joint LDF currently being worked on by Preston, South Ribble and Chorley councils provides an opportunity to “preserve our green spaces and manage development in a way that ensures a better quality of life for all.”

He has told the Save the Ribble Campaign that “not building on floodplain is one of the target indicators we are required to meet and therefore the LDF is an opportunity to prevent building on the Ribble.” Furthermore, there will be “opportunity to designate areas of land for development and areas that cannot be built on”. Cllr Swindells believes that local councillors across the three districts want to preserve as much green space as possible.

However, it isn’t just councillors views which are important and there is an opportunity for local residents in all three districts to take part in the LDF consultation process and make their views known.

Save the Ribble Campaign urges local residents to take part in this process to help ensure the protection of our precious River and green spaces.

You can a e-mail your views to consultation@centrallancscity.org.uk or make comments through a dedicated website at http://www.centrallancscity.org.uk/

There are also three public forum meetings in March. If you wish to attend email consultation@centrallancscity.org.uk or write to FREEPOST, Central Lancashire City LDF by Friday 26th January.

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Save The Ribble's New Year Resolutions

It's 2007 already, and Save The Ribble intend it to be a year where there is NO barrage built in the River Ribble, and no more housing built in it's floodplain.

In fact we aim to have the same resolution for 2008, 2009, 2010....

We hope that if we can get enough people to stand up for their river and the greenbelt in the Central Lancashire City Consultation then we will be able to guarantee that these threats to local people and the environment are totally ruled out at least until 2027, we want the Ribble Floodplain to be guaranteed as a green breathing space for City and Country dwellers alike in the forthcoming Local Development Frameworks.

Some people have accused us of saying that the Riverworks barrage and housing schemes are a 'foregone conclusion' - this is a ridiculous allegation, without even the slightest bit of logic. Indeed, what would be the point of our groups existence if we believed this to be true? Campaigning against a barrage that is a foregone conclusion would be like spending the day campaigning against the sunset. It is precisely because the barrage and housing ideas are NOT a foregone conclusion (yet) that our campaign exists - we want to prevent them from becoming a foregone conclusion.

The opposite idea, that the Riverworks barrage and housing development is just a 'pie in the sky' planners' whim that will never happen is just as pernicious - a lot of people in Cardiff thought this about the Cardiff Bay Barrage development, and now they are spending £20 million a year on dredging and pumping out groundwater to prevent flooding due to the consequences of that particular barrage.

The truth currently lies somewhere in between - and the more of us that stand up and point out what a dangerous and irresponsible idea a Ribble barrage scheme or a floodplain housing development actually is, the less likely it is that it will ever happen and the more that local peoples' views will be listened to - but if we sit back complacently and leave it to someone else to do the protesting, the more likely it is that greedy developers and concrete-obsessed planners will get their way.

We feel that in many different forums and bodies, the tide is just beginning to turn against the barrage and housing ideas contained in Riverworks. We hope to bring more news about this very soon. 2006 saw similar barrage and housing schemes in other areas rejected due to the flood risk they posed.

We also intend to publish more articles in 2007 explaining exactly why the Barrage and Housing Schemes increase the risk of flooding to local people, and their potentially disastrous consequences for the local environment, particularly the 250,000 birds of the Ribble Estuary. We also hope to publish more of your wonderful photos, and more local people's views about their river, their local football pitches, green spaces and allotments.

By publishing such great photos of our river, and information and artwork about the beautiful countryside that surrounds it, our blog is helping to promote the beauty and ecological significance of the River Ribble to a national and international audience, so why not make it your resolution to post us your comments, send us your ideas and articles, join our campaign and help us to turn pro-Ribble voices into an irresistible tide in 2007!

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