A DECISION on plans to amend part of Kendal’s flood defence scheme has been put on hold - with one councillor labelling the proposed wall as the towns ‘own mini-Berlin Wall’ which would ‘sever’ the conservation area.

Members of South Lakeland local area planning committee for Westmorland and Furness Council deferred proposals to amend a section of the flood defence scheme previously approved on the western side of the riverbank of the River Kent in the town centre.

According to planning documents the Environment Agency submitted an amended scheme due to ‘emerging technical design difficulties’ following the receipt of additional topographical data.

Plans for flood defences at this site were previously approved in 2019 but the new proposed development is considered ‘preferable’ as it is ‘technically feasible’ and provides a level of flood resilience while maintaining the openness of and access to New Road Common, documents submitted by the Environment Agency state.

According to planning documents the previously approved scheme can act as a ‘fallback option’.

Proposals include a shorter 148-metre-long flood wall compared to the previously proposed 189 metre wall which will not impede access to New Road Common.

The proposed wall will also have a maximum height of 1.64 metres which is 10cm higher than the maximum height in the previously approved scheme, according to a report prepared for the committee.

Richard Knight, flood risk manager for Cumbria for the Environment Agency told the committee the proposed works on New Road are a ‘critical component’ of this overall consented scheme and will reduce flood risk for approximately 383 homes and businesses.

However, the proposals were deferred by the committee to allow more time to hear from the Environment Agency how they explored different options and reached the decision to go with the proposed wall.

Objecting to the plans Councillor Shirley Evans (Kendal Nether, Lib Dems) stated the proposals were ‘unacceptable’ and called on the Environment Agency to use glass panel walls instead of the proposed solid wall to maintain the views.

In planning documents Councillor Helen Ladhams (Kendal Castle, Lib Dems) stated she is ‘very unhappy’ with the new proposals and added the proposed wall will provide a ‘hiding place for anti-social behaviour’.

Mr Knight told the committee the use of glass in the scheme would add in the region of £750,000 in ‘additional unfunded cost' and delay construction by a year.

Mr Knight added: “The road safety audit recently undertaken demonstrates that to ensure public safety both for pedestrians, cyclists and vehicular, the introduction of glass so close to the road could require protection in the form of bollards or vehicle restraint systems. This could require the proposed wall to be set back even further into the common.

“This would reduce the openness to and from the common and could reduce the aesthetic value of the glass panels compromising their ability to provide open views in and out of the common.”

Cllr Evans said: “The comments from Kendal Town council, fellow councillors and many of the 69 other objections to these proposals have a common theme, that this wall would be an eyesore, destroying a sense of open space and blocking the vista to the river and the historic Nether Bridge.

“Then there are the concerns raised by the police and others that these walls will reduce passive surveillance of the new road common area, leading to more anti-social behaviour which will deter many from using the common area as an open space”, she added.

Cllr Evans also said the proposed walls would be ‘Kendal’s own mini Berlin Wall’ which would ‘sever’ the conservation area.

Planning officers recommended approval to the amended scheme and a report prepared for the committee concludes: “Overall, notwithstanding the residual harms to cultural heritage and the broader amenity of the area, the importance of minimising flood risk in Kendal (and the continued delivery of the Kendal Flood Risk Management Scheme) is judged a significant public benefit that carries overwhelming weight in this case.”

Plans also include the construction of flood gates at the end of New Road next to Gooseholme Footbridge and at the pedestrian crossing between New Road and Blackhall Road. The floodgates have been designed to stop water running onto New Road and beyond during a flood.

Other proposals include the reprofiling of the slipway by replacing the existing gravel covered slipway with stone pitching to mirror the riverbank through much of Kendal and new surface water drainage will be constructed to allow for the discharge of water into the river, via an outfall flap to be installed on the dry side of the defences.

However, the proposals received 69 objections, including representations from Kendal Town Council as well as councillors Helen Ladhams, Matt Severn and Shirely Evans who raise concerns the proposals could lead to anti-social behaviour.

The report by planning officers says: “The effect of the proposals on the broader amenity of the area is also an issue, with the defences likely to make New Road Common feel less safe, if not actually less safe, in terms of an increased potential for crime and antisocial behaviour.”

To enable construction, a single lane closure on New Road would be required for the entire construction period, causing disruption to traffic.

The working area would also result in the closure of New Road Common in its entirety however planning documents say the disruption is no more ‘substantial’ than the consented scheme.

Members of South Lakeland local area planning committee deferred the plans on Friday May 10 at Kendal Town Hall.