OBJECTION TO EA PROPOSALS FOR KENDAL’S FLOOD DEFENCES

Kendal Business Improvement District Kendal BID Ltd

28th January 2019

To whom it may concern;

Kendal Business Improvement District Limited is an autonomous organisation run by and for the businesses of the defined geographical BID area in the centre of Kendal. The aim of the organisation is to improve the business profile of Kendal which also involves attracting visitors to the town and raising the profile of Kendal both nationally and internationally.

We have surveyed our levy-payers several times via social media, our regular newsletter and an advertisement in the local paper, in order to accurately reflect their views about the proposed EA measures for flood defences in the town centre. The first point we should make is that every submission we have received from our businesses, bar one, has been against the current proposals for walls along the riverside and the removal of hundreds of mature trees. We have had just one single message in favour of the plans.

The BID board discussed the EA proposals at our January board meeting, and we have also met with Tim Farron MP and the EA Partnerships Manager to discuss our concerns. Our main objection is the fact that the riverside through the centre of town will be flanked by high walls on both sides for most of its course. These walls will ensure that the first experience of the river corridor in Kendal is of concrete walls between 120cm and 150cm high. This means that the view from a car will be completely obscured by concrete and the current views of green spaces, Abbot Hall and the historic Parish Church will be lost forever. We strongly feel that this will be an incentive for those drivers to keep going and leave the town rather than stop and explore Kendal, bringing much-needed money into the local economy. The use of glass panels in the wall seems to be very limited and in small areas, making their value as mitigation negligible to passing vehicles.

The removal of hundreds of mature broad-leafed trees from the area adjacent to the river will also detract substantially from the appearance of the town, and the planting of new trees will not be a replacement for decades at best.

The material the proposed walls will be finished with is also a concern for the BID. The EA manager we spoke with was vague about the treatment to be applied to the concrete walls to improve their appearance. There appeared to be two possibilities: one a stone-facing option using local stone to match the existing town aesthetic, the other a textured concrete print which looked appallingly out of place in Kendal, especially sited next to our historic bridges. The wall would in any event be something of an eyesore but the cheaper textured concrete option we feel would be disastrous to the appearance of the town. We feel that the walls themselves are out of place in the town’s character and will substantially and permanently blight the appearance of the riverside; one of Kendal’s greatest assets with regard to public recreation and enjoyment of nature in the centre of town.

The riverside should be developed as a key part of the regeneration of the town’s tourism and visitor economy. To disfigure it permanently is directly in contravention of the current plans for improving the town. Glass panelling would go some way to mitigating the damage done by the walls, but the EA plans have so little glass panelling proposed that the effect will be almost negligible.

We also have serious concerns about security and public safety for our levy-payers and visitors to the town following the erection of walls along the roadside on New Road and Aynam Road. Both these areas are currently open green spaces adjacent to the river and are used regularly especially in the summer by local people and visitors alike for recreation and picnics by the river. The food and drink element are valuable income for the local economy, especially the cafes, fish and chip shops and fresh food retailers in town. Once walls are in place these areas become a hidden space, invisible to anyone looking from the road, and a perfect environment for anti-social behaviour, alcohol and drug abuse and petty crime.

The wall itself will probably be extensively vandalised with graffiti, further detracting from the aesthetic of our town and discouraging visitors from parking up and exploring the town, bringing much-needed income to the businesses of Kendal. We are also worried that the area behind the wall will become a no-go area for locals as a result; the very opposite effect to that which currently exists following £500,000 investment to make the green space on New Road into an asset rather than an eyesore.

As far as the proposed walls are concerned Kendal BID considers them to be a disaster to the attractive riverside corridor through town for both cars and pedestrians. If it were proved to be essential that the walls are built, we would insist that at least 50% of the wall should be glass panels, and the rest must be faced with local stone rather than just textured concrete. The extensive use of the glass panelling may mitigate the anti-social behaviour aspect to a small extent as long as they are well maintained and cleaned regularly.

We also feel that access to the river should be built into the area on Aynam Road to create a usable space for visitors and locals to keep the river Kent as an attraction. Any proposed construction would need to be sympathetic to the town’s cultural and historical background, maintaining as many mature trees as possible and keeping the spaces adjacent to the river attractive and usable. We do not believe that this is possible under the current EA proposals.

We also believe that it is self-evident that in order to avoid risk of severe flooding in the future a joined-up approach is required from the Environment Agency, Cumbria County Council and United Utilities. We do not believe that the works to the riverbanks through town will be of much use if the town’s drains and culverts are blocked, collapsed, obstructed and generally poorly maintained. We are well aware that much of the flooding from Storm Desmond and other flood events was due to run-off of water from hillsides and roads which failed to drain properly as a result of poor maintenance of the drains in Kendal.

We understand that the EA scheme for flood defence walls through town is only one part of a three- phase scheme, which depends on the completion of the other two phases to be more than 5% effective as protection. We also know that the sole reason for applying to do the works in the town centre first is the prospect of attracting around £5m in EU funding before the UK leaves the Union. In our opinion the fact that the Kentmere and Kentrigg schemes should logically be completed before the works in town can be of much use as protection should serve as enough reason to reject the EA plans to irretrievably alter the river corridor through the centre of Kendal until such time as the other works have been completed.

To pass this scheme with no guarantee that the other phases will ever be completed due to potentially insurmountable difficulty in acquiring the necessary land upstream, is a disastrous prospect for the town. It seems to us that the scheme should be rejected until such time as all three phases are in a position to proceed so that the town might indeed be better protected. The current proposals offer little additional protection to the town at the cost of enormous upheaval to the town centre which would effectively negate any prospective tourism initiatives to bring visitors to Kendal and a much-needed boost to the local economy in a time of austerity and struggling high street businesses.

We urge the Planning Committee to reject the EA proposals entirely as they stand. The evidence for the works in the town centre is not compelling when balanced against the damage it will definitely inflict on the town’s economy. It is only to try and get the EU funding prior to Brexit which makes the EA propose this stage first.

We would like to see the Planning Committee send the application back to the EA rejected and urge them to sit down with United Utilities and Cumbria County Council to sort out the entire problem rather than to sacrifice Kendal’s potential for growth of visitor numbers and local economy simply to save the Government £5m on the scheme. When Kendal’s drains are well-maintained and the roads are adequately equipped to deal with heavy rainfall, the EA’s projections may look very different and the proposed 5ft walls down the side of the river may no longer be necessary, especially if the upstream water management phases are at least feasible and the land necessary has been secured so that the works may be done.

We feel that the whole scheme has been turned on its head for two reasons. The first is to attract the EU funding which is obviously time-sensitive: the second is the EA’s lack of success in procuring the land upstream for water storage. Our view is that this has become a political issue rather than concentrating on what will be best for the town as a whole.

Kindest Regards

 

Simon Thomas (Chair of Kendal BID Ltd) for and behalf of the levy paying businesses of Kendal.

Kendalbid@btinternet.com

 

 

 

 

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