The state of Fylde’s drainage system is once again under the microscope with one councillor urging Environment Agency chiefs not to drag their feet on the issue.
Heavy rainfall in autumn and winter led to farmers’ fields to the east and north of Lytham becoming saturated, spoiling crops and leaving land sterile.
The danger is that the current system is struggling to cope, and with around 2,000 homes being built in various developments in the next 10 to 15 years, the level of drainage required is going to increase.
Coun Tommy Threlfall, Fylde Council cabinet member for environment and partnerships, has met the EA for the past two years about the issue.
He said: “The council is concerned with the existing problem and also with potential problems caused by new developments in the area.
“The EA has great expertise in tackling problems like this and I’m urging them to keep their efforts up over the summer.
“Farmers report that parts of their fields have effectively become sterile with all the retained water caused by this essentially 19th century drainage system. Any new building may also, I believe, put houses in some risk. We must stop that.”
The EA plans to improve land drainage to the east and north of Lytham by replacing non-return valves at the Dock Bridge pump station and reducing nearby culvert silt this summer to speed the draining of water. The expected increased waterflow should draw more water from farmland to the rear of Lytham – farmland that has become increasingly waterlogged in recent years.
Environment Agency engineers are also surveying the beds of Main Drain and Liggard Brook and will review maintenance plans with a view to increasing waterflow.
Coun Threlfall added: “This planned work really needs doing as soon as reasonably possible so that winter rains do not leave the fields flooded well into next spring and even summer.
“I, and Fylde Council staff, have met with the Agency in recent years. It is clear that they know what has to be done.
“The basis of the problem is reduced waterflow down Main Drain into the Ribble estuary. Part of that is a problem with silt which slows the flow of water away from the farmland.
“The Environment Agency has promised remedial action to reduce short-term risk of flooding but is also studying the bigger picture of water levels, bed levels and waterflow and will be reviewing maintenance work on Liggard Brook. I know they will do a thorough job – and I hope their timetable does not slip.”
Farmer Andy Pemberton, of Pemberton’s Dairies in Ballam Road, said his land quickly became saturated after just a 48 hour period of rainfall two weeks ago and argued more needs to be done to improve the drainage situation.
He said: “The present system is just not good enough.
“It cannot escape quickly and more needs to be done by the Environment Agency to relieve the problem. I don’t want a situation in winter where the water can hardly escape from my land – it just ruins any crops.
“The drain needs to be regularly dredged of silt.”
Coun Threlfall added that the drainage system must be adequate for future development in the area.
He has urged MP Mark Menzies to seek larger budgets to fund improved drainage in and around new developments in the Whitehills area – a new drainage system there would relieve the Main Drain and Liggard Brook.