A £400,000 programme to improve an ageing part of the Fylde drainage system is in danger of not working, a local farmer has revealed.
Earlier this year, new metal pen stocks were installed at the Dock Bridge pumping station in Preston Road, Lytham, as part of an Environment Agency (EA) project.
The new pen stocks were supposed to improve the drainage system to halt widespread flooding, but Andy Pemberton, of Pemberton’s Dairies, said a series of mechanical faults caused delays to the project’s completion, allowing the drain to become blocked with silt.
He added: “The Environment Agency has really got themselves in a pickle.
“Due to the six month delay to hand over the project, the creek has gone back to how it was 18 months ago.
“We are experiencing a high water table across the Fylde coast at the moment. It should not be like that and it gives us little fall back if we have a period of wet weather.”
Mr Pemberton said the Environment Agency had discussed setting up a maintenance programme to monitor high water levels, but he said there would be “minimal point” in doing this without clearing out the silted part of the drain.
He added: “This affects all drainage for St Annes, for Lytham, for Blackpool, for the airport and beyond.
“They (the EA) have got to clean out the creek then look at maintenance programme.
“There will be minimal point in doing it. The plug is in the bottom of the bath – the bath will not drain until the plug is gone.”
Earlier this month Fylde MP Mark Menzies said he would write to the Secretary of State and ask what could be done to improve the pen stock situation.
A spokesman from the Environment Agency said: “We’ve been working closely with local farmers to reduce flood risk to their land, and have undertaken a significant amount of work to remove silt from the Dock Bridge area. Because it is a tidal channel, it is impossible to permanently remove silt as it builds up again very quickly. We have manually removed silt several times, but this is a costly and unsustainable solution.
“We have recently refurbished the ‘pen stocks’ near the Dock Bridge pumping station, which is fantastic news for the farming community as it provides sustainable flood risk management to local farmland. We can use these new pen stocks to hold water back after heavy rainfall, then release it quickly to try and flush out the silt in the channel. This harnesses the natural force of water draining into the sea, and means we don’t have to spend taxpayers money dredging the channel every year. Because there hasn’t been much rain recently, we’ve been unable to do this. The water table is currently quite low due to the prolonged dry spell, but as soon as enough water builds up we will try flushing out the channel, which will then help lower the flood risk to local farmland if rain persists.
“In addition, we regularly remove vegetation and channel blockages to keep local waterways flowing, and we are running a pilot in the area to make it easier for farmers to carry out their own maintenance. All in all, we are doing everything we can to support the local farming community and help them manage the risk of flooding.”