Tuesday, 01 December 2015

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Carlisle defences not to blame for rural flooding, says agency

Environment Agency chiefs insist that multi-million pound flood defences in Carlisle were NOT to blame for the flooding which devastated north Cumbria at the weekend.

Under water: Fooding, in High Bridge, near Dalston

Householders have been demanding assurances that the defences are not making them more vulnerable to disaster.

The Stockdalewath and High Bridge areas near Dalston were hit severely by flash floods when a month’s rainfall fell in just 24 hours.

People living in properties damaged there face months out of their homes with repair bills in the area expected to run into hundreds of thousands of pounds after waters rose at the weekend.

But the Environment Agency maintained yesterday that the flooding was simply caused by the sheer volume of rain that fell over parts of north Cumbria, including into the River Caldew. Insurance firm assessors have spent this week going through damaged homes as those living there have tried to salvage whatever they can after clearing out sludge washed in by the waters.

While those whose properties have been damaged near Dalston accept that the heavy rainfall put them at severe risk of flooding, they have raised questions about whether the closing of floodgates in Denton Holme may have pushed floodwaters closer to them.

Some have written to Carlisle MP John Stevenson, asking him to take up the case with the Environment Agency. Similar concerns about the impact on outlying areas of closing floodgates were raised last year after floodwaters washed into the Stead McAlpin factory at Cummersdale.

In some cases on Saturday, waters rose above flood defences installed on individual homes, leaving even those who were prepared little chance of saving all their possessions.

Since concerns were raised last year about the Steads situation, Mr Stevenson has been keeping close tabs on flooding issue in the Dalston area.

He is now seeking fresh talks with the Environment Agency, the quango responsible for flood defences, to discuss the latest issues.

The MP said: “It is not very nice for residents and a business that employs over 100 people. There are questions as to what the Environment Agency needs to do in regards to these issues.

“We need to look at how that be resolved, I plan to meet with them as soon as I can and also to meet with local people.”

The Environment Agency has confirmed that flood defences were brought into action because of the heavy rainfall that caused flash flooding on Saturday, protecting about 1,800 homes.

A spokesman added: “When these flood defences are in operation, water is stored in the river channels and on the natural flood plain to ensure water levels are managed effectively.

“The flooding at the weekend was simply caused by the sheer volume of rain that fell over parts of north Cumbria, including into the River Caldew. Stockdalewath is situated on the River Roe within the River Caldew catchment and is a recognised flood risk area. Unfortunately on Saturday, flooding occurred to properties in Stockdalewath which is located approximately seven miles upstream of Carlisle. The flood defences in Carlisle are too far away to have any influence on river levels in the Stockdalewath area.”

Trevor Allison, who represents the area on Carlisle city and Cumbria county councils, described Saturday’s rainfall as “exceptional” – but believes the flood warning system in the area should be looked at.

He said: “The flood defences haven’t contributed to the flooding in the Caldew valley.

“What happened is that they were caught out because it happened so suddenly. My understanding is that they couldn’t get their own flood defences up in time.”

Mr Allison said that he would now be pushing for an early warning system to help residents in the future.


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