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Thursday, 30 October 2014

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Fears for Barrow landmark as flood clean-up begins

AS Barrow mops up after yet another thorough drenching, concerns have been raised over the impact of repeated flooding of the town’s most prized possession.

Furness Abbey resembled a lake on Thursday afternoon as torrential rain soaked the ground on which the Cistercian monastery has stood for nine centuries.

This week’s incident is at least the third time in the last 12 months that the abbey has been significantly flooded.

Stuart Priss, of Barnard Street, Barrow visited the abbey after the worst of the rain had subsided on Thursday and said he was shocked at the sight that greeted him.

“I went down there and I don’t think anybody’s ever seen it that bad,” he said.

“If this weather carries on without anything to safeguard it and protect it, then the abbey might not be there for the next generation.

“And I think it would be such a shame if, in our lifetime, we were the ones responsible for the abbey crumbling.”

In 2009, English Heritage began emergency conservation work on the abbey amid fears structural weaknesses could see its collapse.

The £330,000 project is concentrated on stabilising the cracked wall of the abbey’s presbytery church, which was added during a 15th century extension.

Mr Priss, 46, who has lived in Barrow all his life, said he hoped the community, as well as English Heritage, recognised the urgency of the situation.

“It can’t carry on taking that amount of flooding,” he said. “Something needs to be done to divert that water.”

Meanwhile, residents were keep busy in Barrow yesterday cleaning up after a downfall that delivered 41.8mm of rain, according to the Met Office’s Walney Island station.

Staff at the Tesco supermarket in Roose Road faced a mammoth clean-up operation after Red River overflowed and flooded the car park.

Water reached right up to the front entrance bollards, preventing customers from entering, and left a thick coating of mud across the car park when it finally receded.By Ross Tyson

In Askam residents are demanding action after a burst beck and defective drain left their houses with flood damage.

Homeowners in Waterside and Dale Street are furious local authorities have not moved to fix the long-standing problems that threaten their properties.

During Thursday’s dramatic deluge, a blocked stormwater drain near the service station on Ireleth Road caused torrents of water to cascade down into their street.

The area’s residents – as well as the garage’s owner – are at loggerheads with Barrow Borough Council, Cumbria Highways and United Utilities over with whom responsibility lies.

A 79-year-old Dale Street resident, who was fitted with a pacemaker just two weeks ago, was forced to brave the extreme weather and clear drains on the A595 to try and alleviate the flooding.

He said residents in his street were living in fear that every time the heavens opened the inadequate drainage would leave their properties under water.

Ireleth Road residents John Pritchard, 82, and his wife Irene, 83 – who together owned the garage near the drain for many years – said the road resembled a “raging river”.

“There’s a blockage in the stormwater drain that the councils and the water board know all about, but they’ve been fighting each other since June,” he said.

“They’re trying to pass the problem on to the individual householders. They’ve been here umpteen times – they’ve done surveys and put dye through the system.

“But they haven’t fixed it and they’re all wriggling out of it. In the meantime, people in this village are having to fight to even leave their homes.”

70-year-old Waterside resident Alan, who declined to give his surname, was fighting flooding on multiple fronts on Thursday.

As well as helping neighbours sandbag and directing traffic on the A595 – after a call to 999 was not responded to – as a result of the drainage issue, he had to protect his own home when Blea Beck burst its banks.

He said he had been battling the Environment Agency in vain for more than four years to have the beck’s banks behind his back garden elevated.

“It was like biblical proportions,” he said of the rushing water, which spilled over his homemade defences and into his garage.

“We’re really annoyed because we’ve been complaining and no one seems to be listening.”

Environment Agency operations team leader Andy Knipe said the “sheer volume of rain” that fell on Thursday meant it was impossible to completely safeguard from flooding.

“No amount of money could entirely remove the risk of flooding, so it’s really important that people understand the risks in their neighbourhood and prepare an action plan so they know what to do if flooding occurs,” he said.

“We are continuing to investigate the exact cause of the flooding in Dale Street, but it appears the sheer volume of rain that fell in the area was unable to drain away quickly and, in addition, Blea Beck overtopped it’s bank contributing to the problem.

“We will now investigate whether anything can be done to reduce flood risk in the area.”

The flooding, which some locals described as the worst since the big floods of 2009, saw the tight-knit Askam community band together fight back against the rising water.

The Duddon Inshore Rescue (DIR) team was assisted by volunteers, including Kevin Tippett, Kevin Askew and the vice chairwoman of Askam and Ireleth Parish Council, Liz Gaskell.

“There was definitely more water about this time than there was a few weeks ago,” DIR station officer Ian Standing said.

“It was a community thing and everybody mucked in.”

Have your say

Well you are ridiculous. Barrow is separated from Dalton by about 2 miles, or a 10 minute bike ride, or a half hour walk. I was not aware that such fundamentally different cultures could be separated by such a small distances. To be fair, I'm sure it was only with the advent of the internal combustion engine that the residents of the diverse communities of Barrow and Dalton saw each other for the first time.

As for an Englishman's home being his castle: we pay money to the council to build and maintain the level of infrastructure we would expect of a developed country. I would like to think that this country's engineering base has not declined so much that it is difficult for the council to implement adequate drainage around residential areas.

Posted by JayTeeKay on 29 November 2012 at 13:40

I.S. we have clearly defined boundaries and there is an ancient marker stone on the Cistercian Way indicating that the Abbey is well within the boundary of Barrow and probably has been for at least a century. I suppose you still live in Lancashire too?

Posted by Old John on 26 November 2012 at 12:35

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