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.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Invest In Flood Defences Not A Barrage!

Jack Davenport, Preston City Councillor for Riversway ward, called in a letter in the Lancashire Evening Post today for money that the Council and Vision Board are planning to waste on feasibility studies into the unwanted Ribble Barrage, to be used instead on investigating the improvement of Preston's flood defences.

His call is underlined by disastrous flooding in Hull, Doncaster, Tewkesbury, Gloucester and many other parts of the UK.

Even a cursory visual inspection of the 'panel and post' flood defences along Broadgate shows that they are old and showing worrying signs of deterioration.


This is just one of a number of pillars with large vertical cracks.

Here are a few more:








It seems likely that in winter when water turns into ice inside these cracks, it will cause them to worsen.


This is where a small vertical crack meets a horizontal crack in one of the panels, that extends for several feet.


Tree roots are also making their way beneath the flood barrier and breaking the pavement on the other side.




The faces of some of the panels are worn, showing rusty steel underneath.


Despite recent flash flooding, the council has done nothing to clear blocked drainage in the area.

The flood defences protect a large amount of local housing.

We at Save The Ribble are not experts on Flood Defences, but we share residents' concerns about these cracks, and about the post and panel flood defences that should now be upgraded given the clear threat of flooding when the river is in spate, a risk that any kind of obstruction in the river, like a barrage, can only exacerbate.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Urgent Action for Seas & Open Spaces! - and the more leisurely Ribble Coast & Wetlands Walking Festival - The Ribble Way Walk to Brockholes

URGENT ACTION is needed to Save our Seas - Marine Reserves NOW - click here!

URGENT ACTION is needed to Save our Open Spaces - Register YOUR local Open Space in the Local Development Framework consultation - deadline SOON - click here!

And on a much more leisurely note...

Join other Ribble residents for a fabulous Walk along the Ribble to Brockholes!

As part of the Ribble Coast & Wetlands Regional Park's Walking Festival, Ribbleside residents are Walking the Ribble Way to the Wildlife Trust's new Wetland Nature Reserve at Brockholes.



It will be an all-day event, walking upriver to the Wildlife Trust's new Brockholes Wetland Nature Reserve. We will be starting from the Tram Bridge over the Ribble between Avenham & Miller Parks and Penwortham, and walking the Ribble Way upriver, past the Shawes Arms, Mete House, and Mellings Wood, through to Brockholes Wetland.

You can enjoy many happy hours by the riverbank whatever the weather!



You can read more about some of the wildlife you might see at Neil Mitchell's blog: 'Twitch with Mitch'

Come and join us for a fabulous day out by the Ribble!

The full details are:

Start time: 10.30am on Saturday 4th August

Meeting place: On the Old Tram Bridge over the Ribble, between Penwortham and Avenham & Miller Parks, Preston

Length of walk (miles): Approximately 8 miles in total: 2 hours walking alongside the Ribble each way, plus a picnic lunch (bring your own). The expected finish time is approximately 4.30-5pm.

It is an easy/medium walk, we intend to take our time enjoying the Ribble scenery and wildlife. There are a few stiles and occasional bumpy terrain.

It is unfortunately not suitable for wheelchair users or pushchairs as there are stiles and some bumpy terrain along the riverbank.

Children are very welcome but must be capable of an 8 mile walk, however leisurely this will be!

Unfortunately dogs are not able to come to this particular event due to the breeding bird sites at Brockholes Wetland.

Bring your own lunch and plenty to drink, plus sunhats/block or raincoats, depending on the weather that day. Do bring cameras and binoculars if you wish.

At Brockholes Wetland Reserve, we will meet the Site Manager who has kindly offered to explain the Wildlife Trust's plans for the site, and we may be lucky enough to have a short guided walk, depending on the locations of bird breeding sites.



Do come along, and bring family and friends.

You can email us at savetheribble@tiscali.co.uk

More details about this and other Ribble Events

More Ribble Coast & Wetlands Walking Festival Events can be found by following the link at Action Ribble Estuary

More information about Brockholes Wetland Nature Reserve

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Urrá Dam Exacerbates Sin River Flooding - Help Needed in Colombia

Please Support Victims of Sinú River Flooding

'Save The Ribble' has received this urgent call from Friends of the Earth Colombia (CENSAT Agua Viva), it has many chilling echoes of the situation in Britain, where residents of Hull and Doncaster still face official inaction weeks after catastrophic flooding to their homes:

After intense rain showers more than 20,000 people living on the banks of the Sin River in San Pelayo, Cereté Lorica in Montería, Colombia were forced to find temporary shelter or be relocated to higher land. Their lands and homes are now under water from the June 29 inundations, which over-ran the Urrá Dam on the Sin River. Pets and livestock were lost, as reported by ASPROCIG the Producers' Association of the Greater Sin Region.


Sinú residents face poverty after flooding exacerbated by the Urrá dam

The same source confirmed that 600 of the 20,000 affected people are part of the social resistance process to the Urrá Dam. These are the communities who noticed the effects of the dam on fisheries and promoted agroecology and forestry initiatives in response the the threats. These initiatives are today under water.

In addition to the initial impacts of the Urrá Dam's construction on the communities and their territories, the government has been slow in responding to the flooding that is being experienced in Córdoba. The flooding was exacerbated by the presence of the dam, and there is a danger that government negligence could increase the humanitarian crisis and frame the perfect argument in favour of Urrá II, a "megadisaster" that would exacerbate the agony of the Sinú residents after the Urrá.

We need your help to support the victims in Córdoba. CENSAT Agua Viva is collecting non-perishable food, clothing, and medicine. CENSAT Agua Viva is also collecting financial support for the victims.

Please make a donation to the relief effort.


Censat-Agua Viva


Join IRN and join the international movement to protect rivers and defend human rights:
http://www.irn.org/support.



More information here about rivers and dams

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Preston Vision Board Split Over Ribble Barrage?

David Borrow MP, A prominent member of the Preston City Vision Board, and former leader of Preston City Council has strongly criticised the council's handling of the Riverworks Project and said "The brakes need to be applied" to the Barrage and Housing elements of the plans - "and proper joint working put in place".



He makes very angry statements about the way Preston City Council has ignored the views of his South Ribble constituents:
The ex-Preston Council leader said the authority had shown "complete disregard" for the views of people in South Ribble, despite Penwortham river banks believed to be targets for a major housing development under the scheme.

He has written a very strongly worded letter to Preston City Council saying
I will not allow the views of my constituents to be ignored and South Ribble Council to be treated like a small parish council.


There are many councillors on Preston City Council too who are equally unhappy about the lack of consultation and democratic accountability that they are currently getting from Preston City Council and the Vision Board - as are a number of Parish Councils!

Some may find Mr Borrow's words surprising, as it was the Preston City Vision Board - of which he is a member - that came up with the Barrage idea in the first place.

Save The Ribble warmly applauds Mr Borrow's statements, if Mr Borrow has now realised that his loyalties must be to the voters of South Ribble, who are overwhelmingly opposed to the barrage and the accompanying housing scheme, rather than to his colleagues on the unelected Vision Board, that is only to be welcomed.

Yet Mr. Borrow needs to make sure he fully represents his residents' views rather than simply concentrating on urging Preston City Council to consult South Ribble Borough Council since it is clear that most South Ribble residents are opposed to the barrage and the Floodplain building developments and do not want them under any circumstances...

It is also the case that a number of other communities along the Ribble will be equally affected by a Ribble barrage:
Fylde residents and their MP Michael Jack have made their own concerns very clear, but Fylde, Sefton and West Lancashire residents MUST ALSO BE FULLY CONSULTED, along with South Ribble and Preston communities.

SAVE THE RIBBLE ASKS:

Why is Preston City Council also ignoring its OWN residents on the issue?

Does Mr. Borrow actually think a Ribble barrage would be a good idea - if it was undertaken through 'joint working' with South Ribble Borough Council?

Why is Preston MP Mark Hendrick silent on the matter...?

Why is Preston City Council insisting on wasting public money by keeping the barrage and floodplain housing ideas in the feasiblity study into Riverworks, when they are opposed by 74% of local people, when few - if any - councillors can be found to speak up for them, and when even members of the Vision Board itself are now dissenting on the issue?





Update 17/7/07

I asked leading Vision Board member Jeremy Gorick "Have you anything to say about your mate Dave Borrow's remarks in yesterday's LEP?"

He replied

Mmmmm...unlike David Borrow I will raise the matter directly with him and give him the chance to explain his reasoning before commenting if at all in public. Suffice to say he gave no indication in Board meetings of any of the views expressed in his letter.


(Anyone detect a slight hint of annoyance in this terse reply???)

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A BARRAGE TO DEMOCRACY

Elaine Abbott’s revealing account of the development of the Tithebarn Project (LEP 5/7/07) provides a timely warning of how the democratic process is threatened when Councils tie themselves into agreements with big business.

Elaine’s account shows how Preston City Council’s pursuit of the Tithebarn project resulted in the interests and wishes of local people being subverted in favour of the mantra of economic regeneration and the interests of Grosvenor Estates.

Her account makes alarming reading for the 74% of local people who are opposed to the plans to build a barrage on the Ribble, since it reveals remarkable similarities between the early stages of the Tithebarn development and the current Riverworks project.

Elaine writes that the Tithebarn Regeneration Project was fraught with problems because it was obvious from the beginning that:

“Grosvenor Estates were determined that it would be done their way or not at all…..In the early days as a then Labour Councillor, I sat on the town centre management committee. The meetings were shrouded in secrecy. It was a very small committee with very few councillors who were outnumbered by Town Hall Officers and the Duke of Westminster’s [Grosvenor Estates] representatives”.

Whilst members of the committee were threatened with legal proceedings if they discussed the smallest detail outside the committee room, other councillors were angry that, although the Tithebarn project would have an enormous impact on the people of Preston, they were neither allowed to sit in as observers nor see the minutes of the meeting.

Today we have a situation where Preston City Council policy in respect of Riverworks is being driven by Council officers and the un-elected Preston Vision Board - despite opposition from local councillors and the vast majority of local people. Much of the decision making around Riverworks is taking place behind closed doors whilst minutes and business plans – including a recent report completed by the property consultants King Sturges - remain secret from members of the public.

It is clear that, as was the case with the Tithebarn project, the potential of vast financial investments could once again result in the interests of the people of Preston - and our unique River environment - taking second place to those of big business.

According to another article in the Lancashire Evening Post - in which they examine some aspects of the recent barrage funding controversy - some councillors are already indicating that our environment might have to be sacrificed to attract the reported £800 million pounds investment that Riverworks may bring.

Councillor Cartwright, a cabinet member for the environment on Preston City Council “claims his passion to protect the Ribble estuary will be balanced against the millions of pounds which can be pumped into the river (sic) through the….. Riverworks project” (LEP 6/7/07).
We might add that building a barrage on the Ribble would indeed be just as much a waste of public money as pumping millions of pounds into the River and letting it float out to the Irish Sea...

Elaine Abbotts account suggests that decision making around the Tithebarn project became concentrated in the hands of a small and secretive committee.

This echoes the report last week that Preston City Council voted, by a narrow margin (the poll was tied 27-27 and relied on the casting vote of the mayor), to transfer decision making for large projects from full council scrutiny to a select City Centre Committee.
This Committee will have the power to spend £12.9 million of North West Development Agency (NWDA) cash. Previously, any plan which cost more than £250,000 had to be referred to full Council, but this will no longer be the case.

According to Councillor Jack Davenport this means that:

"in the future most Councillors will not be able to get a say in large scale projects (for example, the feasibility study for the Barrage). This removes the bulk of democratic opposition (or support) to any project and renders voter representation virtually mute on the subject.”

Given the widespread public opposition to proposals for a Ribble barrage this concentration of decision making into one committee will, according to Councillor Davenport, make the barrage “far more likely” (LEP 6/7/07).

Preston City Council still insist that Riverworks and the barrage scheme are ideas only and will be subject to full feasibility studies. Yet Save the Ribble and other environmental organisations have already provided enough evidence to suggest that building a barrage would have disastrous consequences for our environment and, along with its associated floodplain building development, would also increase the risk of local flooding
- a fact which even Preston City Council leader Councillor Hudson appears to acknowledge, agreeing that the serious flooding scenes of recent weeks 'would prompt a rethink on the plans' to build houses on the floodplain "If the Environment Agency are saying there should be no houses on flood plain land at Preston" (LEP 30/6/07) - at a time when the Environment Agency are already saying there should be no further building developments on floodplains AT ALL.

So why carry on wasting public money in its pursuit?

The concern of local residents has always been that Preston City Council is becoming tied into agreements with developers and big business that will drive Riverworks and give the barrage project an unstoppable momemtum. Once again there are parallels with the Tithebarn development.

As Elaine Abbott reports:

“the threat that Grosvenor would take their millions elsewhere was enough to send the Town Hall into a flap. The biggest issue of all was the bus station. Some of us, knowing that most people in Preston would not want to see it moved, suggested that it could be modernized (but) there was to be no debate. Anyone who queried this was accused of being a dinosaur and of trying to prevent Preston moving into the 21st century.”

As part of their feasibility study for Riverworks, Preston City Council has promised that there will be widespread public consultation. But if widespread public opposition to a barrage threatens the potential millions of £s investment, will Preston City Council be thrown into another flap which will lead them to override the wishes of local people and the protection of our environment?

Once again Elaine Abbott’s account of the Tithebarn project sounds a warning:

“I (was) not the only one to be frustrated during the past few years to hear that the public were to be consulted about the bus station. It gave the impression that the most popular vote to keep it in its present location would be given serious consideration. That would never happen. The Tithebarn progamme was never intended to include public consultation.”

The LEP reports that Councillor Neil Cartwright, who says that he has not made his mind up about the Riverworks proposals, has called for an informed debate and believes the debate has been hijacked by people opposed to a single part of Riverworks – the barrage.
He says that other ideas include improving the docks area and linking the canal to the dock basin: “the problem is that people have come to the conclusion that Riverworks is just about the barrage and formed their opinion on that alone” (LEP 6/7/07).


In fact Save the Ribble campaign has never opposed the ideas for improving the dock or reinstating the canal in Preston. And neither is Save the Ribble Campaign opposed to investment and economic development. But we do argue that any development has to be environmentally and economically sustainable and should enhance rather than diminish our natural environment!

Unfortunately, it is difficult to have an informed debate about these issues when Preston City Council have now voted to remove the decision making process from the scrutiny of most councillors aswell as local people.

Preston City Council and the Vision Board have placed the Ribble barrage and the associated development on our green belt as the 'key project proposals' of their Preston Economic Regeneration Strategy and Prioritised Action Plan, to the exclusion of other more sustainable and less environmentally damaging alternatives. The Council appears to have already decided that Riverworks is the only way forward for Preston.

Councillor Ron Atkins has questioned why the Council’s Chief Executive supports the barrage project before the outcome of a feasibility study is known - a study which the Council is spending hundreds of thousands of pounds of tax-payer's money on.
Councillor Atkins writes (LEP letters 28/6/07):

“It seems to me that attempts are being made to present the project to residents for consultation as a fait accompli although it originated only as a “Vision” of a group of people with special interests, who are as unrepresentative of the residents as they are of the councillors whom the residents elected”.


By what right do these special interests groups suppose that they can pursue their “Vision” at the expense of the wishes of local people and our environment?

In pursuit of the Riverworks project Preston City Council will have to attract vast amounts of private investment – possibly another Grosvenor Estates – whose only interest will be making huge profits.

The question is will Preston City Council be prepared to listen to informed debate and the wishes of the people if in so doing they risk losing millions of £s investment in the City?

And how will local people – and their elected representatives at the Town Hall – know what decisions are being taken behind the closed doors of the City Centre Committee?

You can contact us at savetheribble@tiscali.co.uk

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Run Preston 2007 - Our Pictures

Thousands of people turned out to compete in the 'Run Preston' events today, including two 'Save The Ribble' runners, Hugh and Richard.

The weather was perfect for running, cool and even a very gentle shower.

Here are some pictures from the day, did you run in the event? Perhaps you are featured!

Front Runners



Runners on the Riverside

Richard Sprints past

Onto the Old Stone Bridge



Hugh finishes with a very respectable time

Richard finishes with a personal best

Hugh and his mate Phil

Hugh said "I was pleased to run for the 'Save The Ribble' cause".

More runners make it to the finish line

Running is healthy, fun and character building!

Read more about Why Richard and Hugh ran here

Read more about who really runs Preston here, here and here

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

A Barrage of Democracy?

In a week when Gordon Brown, the new PM, declares his determination to re-democratise politics and restore the trust of the people in our elected political representatives...
in a week when 74% of residents vote NO to a Ribble Barrage...
PRESTON CITY COUNCIL HAVE VOTED TO REMOVE THE DECISION-MAKING PROCESS REGARDING THE RIBBLE BARRAGE OUT OF THE DEMOCRATIC FRAMEWORK OF THE COUNCIL CHAMBER.


Councillor Jack Davenport, Riversway Ward, sent in a comment to our previous article on the overwhelmingly anti-barrage LEP vote to say that in the Council meeting last Thursday (28th June):

"both the Tories and Lib Dems backed and passed proposals to move the power and decision making over large grants from the Council to the City Centre Committee. This effectively means that in the future most Councillors will not be able to get a say in large scale projects (for example, the feasibility study for the Barrage). This removes the bulk of democratic opposition (or support) to any project and renders voter representation virtually mute on the subject. The report presented to Council mentioned the Vision Board frequently and it looks increasingly likely that the Committee will become a rubber stamping body for whatever the Vision Board wants to do or recommends."

Save The Ribble Campaign are not politically partisan as we are local residents who come from all walks of life and are of all - and no - political persuasion, and we receive support from Councillors in Preston and South Ribble from all political parties. Only today, the Lancashire Evening Post reports that whilst Ribchester suffers serious flooding, Tory shadow environment secretary Peter Ainsworth is raising concerns in Parliament about proposals to built thousands of new homes near rivers vulnerable to flooding.

Nonetheless, Preston Council chambers appears to be politically-divided, with the ruling Tory and Lib Dem group determined to remove the decisions regarding the Riverworks Barrage from the Democratic process.
This is an infringement of their democratic mandate, which is to represent the interests of the people who voted for them - 74% of whom have made it clear they do NOT want the Ribble Barrage.

This is an infringement of democracy and accountability. The pro-barrage lobby will use this to push the barrage proposal through behind closed doors and effectively ignore the wishes of local people as well as the environmental and economic consequences to the River Ribble and our local communities. Ignoring what local people and environmental organisations - such as the Environment Agency - say seems to be becoming something of a habit... As Peter Ainsworth says, "At present, a quarter of all planning applications opposed by the Environment Agency still go ahead"...

What is YOUR Councillor saying about this issue?

Does YOUR Councillor support this undemocratic decision?

Does YOUR Councillor represent YOUR interests?


Email us at savetheribble@tiscali.co.uk

Read more about the PRESTON CITY VISION BOARD'S FUNDING 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