A £7m scheme aimed at reducing the risk of flooding for more than 400 properties in Lancashire was officially opened yesterday.
The Croston Flood Risk Management Scheme has been warmly welcomed by a community which suffered from the devastating floods of Boxing Day 2015 when 344 properties were hit.
Many residents were forced to leave the village and businesses had to close while repairs were made. Several feet of water got into buildings, causing extensive damage.
The Army and a Chinook helicopter were called in to deal with the immediate aftermath and Prime Minister David Cameron visited in January to see the repair work.
In 2012, 30 properties were flooded.
Chair of the Environment Agency, Emma Howard Boyd cut the ribbon yesterday on the gate leading to the new embankment at the scheme in Eccleston and was shown around the development by Cumbria and Lancashire area director of the Environment Agency, Keith Ashcroft.
The scheme has been developed by the Environment Agency in partnership with Chorley Council, Lancashire County Council and United Utilities in collaboration with the Lower Yarrow Flood Action Group.
Kath Almond, chairman of the chairman of the Lower Yarrow Flood Action Group and a Croston parish councillor, said: “It will bring a lot of comfort, I think, to the people of Croston.
“I personally am very proud it has come to this - the culmination of a few years of slogging with the Environment Agency.
“We had a flood plan but we wanted a flood prevention plan.
“People then started taking us seriously and the Environment Agency, Chorley Council, Lancashire County Council and United Utilities have all been really great in seeing the problems we’ve had.
“The whole village is affected whether you’re flooded or not - the village’s roads are affected. You are marooned.
“Today is a really good day.”
The £7m scheme is to manage flood risk for 438 properties in Lancashire.
It includes an upstream flood storage area on the River Yarrow and 600m earth embankment is capable of retaining up to 1.3 million m3 of water – equivalent to 520 Olympic size swimming pools. It reduces the flood risk for properties from five per cent to less than one per cent in any one year.
It received £5.4m of Government Grant in Aid funding, including £2.1m from the Government’s Project of Acceleration and Growth (PAG) programme launched after the summer floods in 2012.
Chorley Council contributed £1m, Lancashire County Council £181,000 and £667,000 was received from local levy to finance the scheme.
Emma Howard Boyd said: “In February 2016 I saw the devastating impact of the flooding in Croston and I am so impressed by the village’s recovery.
“I want to celebrate the partnership between the community, the Environment Agency, the councils and United Utilities, who created the Croston Flood Risk Management Scheme together. Everyone has a part to play in protecting themselves from the risk of flooding, but it is by listening to each other and working in partnership that we get the best results.”
Keith Ashcroft said: “We have kept the community updated throughout the construction of the scheme, and the Lower Yarrow Flood Action Group was heavily involved throughout the project, including helping us to work with the whole community, who will be able to walk along the embankment as part of the opening event on Thursday.”
Meanwhile Chorley Council wants unclaimed Croston flood cash support pledged by the Government to be handed back to the borough.
Chorley Council leader Alistair Bradley said: “Obviously we’re delighted they’ve finally got to the opening.
“We’ve had to put in a £1m shortfall. For the residents in Chorley this started in 2008.
“The Government were looking at making this a smaller scheme. There were serious questions at the time about the scheme.
“I’ve written three times to Sajid Javid saying, after the last lot of flooding, they allocated £5,000 per house, but in Croston, 250 haven’t taken that up because of this scheme. That’s £1.25m.
“We’ve said, you’ve allocated it to Croston, why not give it back to Chorley and we’ll spend it on flood affected areas elsehere.
“I’ve written three times, Chorley MP Lindsay Hoyle supported it, South Ribble MP Seema Kennedy supported it.”