In November 2020 and again in March 2021 we highlighted some of the risks to Sefton’s eroding coastline and the need for major reconstruction of the sea defences. We also highlighted that there were 2,584 houses at risk of flooding in the Blundellsands/Crosby Area, according to reports presented by the Council’s consultants.
In addition, the original sewer systems have not been upgraded to cope with the additional developments which this Council has permitted to take place in the area, including building on former greenbelt land.
The Council reported that 1 in 7 homes are at risk of flooding, one of the highest risk boroughs in the county to surface water flooding due to our low-lying nature.
The Council noted that:
“The knock-on consequences of being unable to maintain our assets such as sea walls, watercourses and culverts due to lack of resource will see major consequences to people, place and productivity locally and regionally. With increasing sea levels, storms and rainfall due to climate change we are seeing increasing costs associated with flood or coastal erosion incidents.”
Last year a report by the Council’s consultants described the further challenges facing the continuing erosion of Crosby’s coast, particularly between the Coastguard Station and Formby Point. Specifically, this relates to a 2km long stretch of major sewer below the promenade and coastal frontage which could be broken by winter storms.
“This could result in damage to the outfall and rising main, causing an uncontrolled discharge of untreated effluent onto the beach and/or sand dune habitat which is immediately adjacent to the outfall. Investment in both surface water flood risk management and coastal erosion control is therefore vital in order to manage any future risks from pluvial flooding and coastal erosion.”
Sefton Council noted in October 2020 in its Forward Plan that they were developing a business case in partnership with United Utilities and the Environment Agency to secure funding (£15-£20M) to undertake a scheme in Crosby to reduce risks associated with coastal change and surface water flooding.
The preferred scenarios and funding options were to be presented to Cabinet in December 2020 for approval. (The business plan was previously intended to be presented in October 2019, so was already 12 months overdue).
In short, there is a potentially catastrophic situation arising with the management and maintenance of our local coastline. Whilst various agencies such as United Utilities and the Environment Agency have a part to play, responsibility for devising a long-term solution rests squarely with Sefton Council.
Reports presented both to Cabinet and Scrutiny Committee have highlighted the seriousness of the situation, including a potential flood risk to local houses and also the risk of a major sewage spill along the coastline between Crosby and Hightown.
Any responsible Council would have responded with urgent action. However, our irresponsible Labour Council has stuck its head in the sands and hoped the problem would go away.
Let’s remind ourselves that the Council stated that options were to have been presented to Cabinet in October 2019.
THIS DID NOT HAPPEN!
In June 2021 a further report was presented to Cabinet on Flood Risk, in which they acknowledge that “Flooding is an issue that has potentially devastating impact on people, including vulnerable people.”
One could be mistaken to believe that the Council has at last recognised the seriousness of the situation and is taking urgent steps to prevent erosion of our coastline and flood risk.
The Cabinet report continues:
Measure: Crosby Marine Lake to Formby Point Strategy Delivery Programme.
The strategy study recommended a mixture of capital and revenue maintenance to extend life of defences with rebuild deferred to later in the programme. The defences will need some form of replacement or significant capital maintenance to extend lifetimes.
The Crosby Flood and Coastal Defence Scheme business case for the additional defences and replacement of life exceeded defences is in development. However, the scheme hasn’t scored high enough to attract grant-in-aid to enable delivery. Due to significant gaps in funding the delivery of the project has been delayed whilst partnership contributions are explored and secured. It is anticipated that this action can proceed in 2027.
In summary, the proposals and funding strategies which should have been presented in October 2019 will now not emerge until 2027.
A delay of 8 years on such an important issue is unforgivable, even for a Council with Sefton’s appalling track record. However, having learnt that it has taken 18 months to decide on the shape of litter bins for our seafront this is hardly surprising.
More worrying however is that this is not the end of the story.
Once a strategy is agreed – hopefully in 6 years’ time, the Council will have to design a detailed scheme to protect the coastline, seek planning consent, obtain tenders for the works and then award a contract.
Therefore, don’t expect to see any activity on the coastline by this Council for at least 10 years.
Meanwhile, how many homes will be lost or flooded, how much sewage will be spilled and how much asbestos will be washed up on our precious shoreline as a result of this Council’s inertia and incompetence?
Martyn Barber, Chairman of Sefton Central Conservatives said:
“It is alarming that the urgent business case referred to in the Council’s Forward Plan in 2020 has been abandoned. Meanwhile we witness the damage and disruption to our coastline and drainage systems with winter storms and climate change.
It is the duty of this Council to coordinate the various agencies to safeguard our coastline and reduce flood risk to our homes. Action is needed immediately and we expect our Council to provide a sustainable solution without further delay.”