Chamber Chat with John O'Neill
Time to Shout Out About The Flood Defences
In the aftermath of the floods in December last year, the local authority and Environment Agency said that flood defence works were planned for the River Lune in Lancaster. The works were to be carried out in stages with the first stage covering the approximate area from the motorway, down Caton Road to just above Kingsway. These works were to start this year (2016) with a view to being completed in 2017. Further works were then to be carried out further down river in subsequent years, though there was less detail on that.
Last month a meeting was held for the affected Caton Road businesses for an update by representatives of the County Council and the Environment Agency. The reports of people who were present are that a depressing picture was painted.
No works have started yet. Investigatory and exploratory works “may” start this year. The initial works “may” be finished by 2020. When pressed on exactly when the reply was “maybe in December 2020”. The next phases of the works, such as Parliament Street and the Quay, were even further into the future, with no definitive timescales.
Various reasons were given for the delay, including Brexit (which makes you wonder what was happening before then) but it is no surprise that the main problem is simply a lack of public funds.
The cost of the first phase was put at £9m, which is a substantial sum in this day and age, but is dwarfed by the cost to (and the insurance claims by) the affected businesses and householders from last year’s floods. On a conservative estimate, the businesses affected by the floods in the Caton Road area employ over 1500 people. Whilst many businesses have proved extremely resilient, there is an obvious fear that if it happens again in the near future it will have a devastating effect on some businesses and households.
Cat Smith MP has been contacted and, with her help, a letter to the Chancellor asking him to make sure this is given the go-ahead within the Autumn Statement is circulating to businesses on Caton Road.
If you are an affected business in the Caton Road area and you aren’t aware of this, please contact Lancaster & District Chamber of Commerce and they can put you in touch with the right people. The more businesses we can represent, the better. If we don’t do anything there is a real risk that the flood defences will get kicked into the long grass, until it is too late.