‘Stand-off’ as flood waters threaten village


THE owner of land used as a ‘basin’ for flood water storage during times of serious flooding threats was involved in a remarkable ‘stand-off’ with Enviroment Agency and police as river waters rose last week.

The landowner, thought to be from the St Michael’s area, who has not been named, initially opposed the Environment Agency’s plan to operate the flood basin on his land, blocking the way to the flood basin with a vehicle.

During the dispute a flood warning was issued downstream in St Michael’s, where the village school was evacuated at midday after floodwater rose over the nearby Hall Lane roundabout.

The landowner’s opposition has angered some in St Michael’s, scene of flooding in the 1970s and 80s, who fear things could have been worse if river levels had increased any more.

The incident was confirmed by the EA and long-standing village resident George Tyson described the situation as “not good”.

He added: “It would have been a real story if there had been flooding.”

Another village resident, who did not wish to be named, said: “Everyone in St Michael’s is incensed about this. The flood basin was created to lessen the risk of flooding.”

Following the bad floods off 30 years ago the river banks were raised and the floodbasin, slightly upstream of St Michael’s village (though known as the Catterall basin), was created.

The basin, like the one a few miles upstream at Garstang, is brought into operation only at times of severe flood threat.

Garstang’s basin was opened on Tuesday morning to temporarily store thousands of gallons of river water, which would otherwise have threatened Churchtown and St Michaels.

EA officials, conscious of the rising water levels also considered opening the Catterall flood basin to lessen the risk of flooding villages downstream.

Officials informed the landowner, who has an agreement with the EA giving the agency the right to flood farmland, of their intentions.

An EA spokesman said: “We can confirm that following notice of our intention to operate Catterall flood basin, the landowner did put up opposition to our plans.”

He said the landowner put a vehicle close to the flood basis area to show his opposition.

The EA spokesman added: “The police were involved to support our staff, and the landowner did ultimately agree to remove his opposition when he realised the potential severity of his actions.

“During this period, we issued a flood warning to St Michael’s in accordance with our procedures, and to alert residents of the potential flooding.

“As river levels stabilised, we decided that it would not be necessary to operate flood basin later in the afternoon.”

The EA said since the incident they had been in contact with the landowner and “taken steps to ensure that should there be a need to operate the basin in the future, he will not oppose our operations.”

“We minimised the risk of flooding to the community by actively managing and monitoring the situation.”

Headteacher of St Michael’s CE School Cathy Brough confirmed the evacuation of the 111 pupils at lunchtime on Tuesday and thanked all staff and parents for their help.

• Elsewhere in greater Garstang, as reported in last week’s Courier, floodwaters rose to a point where the EA issued flood alerts.

There was surface flooding on some roads, but the opening of the Garstang flood basin helped to save properties downstream from being flooded.