“Coast Road Crisis management just isn’t good enough”

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A Southport councillor has hit out at the slackness in Sefton Council which has led to the Coast road being completely closed off. He feels that English Nature, too, may have fallen down on their duties.

Councillor Tony Dawson represents the area of west Birkdale which includes the flooded coast road sector. At the Sefton Council meeting held in Southport Town Hall he put in a formal written question to Cllr Iain Moncur, the Bootle-based Cabinet Member responsible for the area of Special Scientific Interest which surrounds the Coast road on all sides.

Cllr Dawson asked:

“Given the importance of drainage to any habitat, what are the responsibilities, within the Higher Level Management Agreement between Sefton Council and English Nature for ensuring maintenance of drainage?”

He was told by Cllr Moncur that there were requirements within that agreement both for Sefton Council to ensure the area was properly drained and that English Nature made sure the Council were doing their job.

Councillor Dawson told the Council that he was not satisfied that either party to that agreement had been ‘doing their bit’ over the years. He pointed out that the evidence which he had received from local residents, leisure users of the nature reserve, and golfers was that the problem was being addressed by crisis management rather than through sustained regular efforts over the months and years.

“There have been blocked and overgrown ditches and when the officers went looking for the outfalls of some of the drains in the duneland they could not even find them.”

Another question which Cllr Dawson formally asked the Cabinet Chiefs during the Council meeting was whether the Council even possessed a definitive map of the drains of the area around the Coast Road. Councillor Moncur’s answer was a one word: “No”.

“In fact,” says Cllr Dawson, “I was told by Sefton Officers that telephone calls had been made, when the flood water started rising, to retired council employees, to see if they could cast some light on where these drains were.”

“The latest reports are that a completely blocked drain has just been located right where the flooding of the road is the worst. This shows the importance of there being proper records kept of all drains, waterways, pipes and cables.”

Councillor Dawson feels that the present situation just is not good enough. He has written to English Nature to enquire what activity they can report over the past five years to  show that they have performed their duty to keep on top of the drainage of the land around the coast road, which includes the Royal Birkdale Golf Club and the Birkdale and Ainsdale Local Nature reserve.

“The Coast Road, when open, is an important commuter route for thousands of people every day. Local residents must be wondering just how long they will be forced to put up with the congestion every morning and night in Birkdale and Ainsdale.”

“There are also legitimate concerns from West Birkdale residents who are wondering if their gardens and cellars really had to be flooded the way they have been,  or whether timely action and maintenance might have prevented this – and concerns how the Seniors Golf Open, at Royal Birkdale, which brings a lot of money into the town, might be affected.”

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