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  1. Published on: 16/06/2017 08:04 AMReported by: rogerblaxall
    Report and photos from Roger Clayton

    Following a short AGM, John Herbert delivered a talk on the Alt-Crossens drainage catchment in light of DEFRA’s decision to withdraw funding from the Environment Agency for land drainage operations.

    He described how the last ice age had created the West Lancashire coastal plain and left behind large areas that were ideal for the containment of water; prior to the 17th century the agricultural land that we now take for granted was composed of mere, marsh and fenland.

    Human activity would have centred upon hunting, fishing and other fenland pursuits with the watery landscape precluding any significant attempts at agriculture, and in the late 17th century Thomas Fleetwood started a process which was to transform the landscape and economy of West Lancashire.

    The draining of Martin Mere was the first move resulting in the environment with which we are now familiar - nowadays a system of drainage ditches, raised watercourses and pumping stations has created 39,000 hectares of prime agricultural land, the greatest concentration of the highest grade land in the country. This is no accident, reflecting the high concentration of peat which has formed over the ages in former marshland and which is now threatened with a return to its former state as funding for pumping stations and watercourse maintenance is set to be withdrawn.

    It was pointed out that the threat to jobs and the economy stretched beyond the 435 agricultural holdings in the catchment which themselves provide 2,500 jobs (not counting seasonal employment). Agriculture and horticulture support thousands of jobs within the Borough and indeed Lancashire as a whole. Sectors such as the agricultural supply industry, packaging and haulage, engineering, food and drink processing/manufacturing, and grocery retailing all depend on agricultural output. Indeed, the food processing industry is the second largest contributor to Lancashire’s multi-million pound manufacturing sector providing thousands of jobs; it's been estimated that land within Alt-Crossens ultimately contributes about £230 million per annum to our local economy.

    The view was also expressed that describing risk in terms of extreme events such as “100 year floods” is unhelpful - the concept is poorly understood and can lead to a sense of false security. Smaller floods (which are much more frequent) can result in more disruption than larger but rarer events. Flooding due to breaches in raised watercourses can be immediate and catastrophic as illustrated by the breach in the River Douglas last year.

    Such events are unfortunately not unusual. Groundwater levels are heavily influenced by pumping. Potential increases in such levels are difficult to quantify but can have detrimental effects on important infrastructure such as roads, railway embankments, and sewer systems.

    The presentation concluded by pointing out that climate change and the increasing demand for development will put further pressure upon the catchment. Currently, we have an effective means of shifting water from land to sea, cutting back on that system has the potential to risk the economy and future of the region.

    It is imperative that a solution is found.

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    Your Comments:

  3. cotton man says:16/06/2017 08:46 AM
    This cannot be allowed to happen, pumping must continue.

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