Now it seems our concerted campaigning and blogging is beginning to pay off as this developer-driven project is taken 'back to the drawing board'.
Mr. Carr has stated that:
"The riverside element has taken a step back from where we were (before the local elections earlier this year) because of the political changes here and in South Ribble".
Mr Carr continued:
"What we are now relying on is discussing this between the leaders to see what is acceptable to them. Much of the development is in South Ribble and now it is an issue of whether it wants to progress this".
Luckily for the River Ribble, our environment, and our communities, it seems that not only the Labour Councillors in Preston are opposing the barrage and building development schemes - such as Jack Davenport, Bhikhu Patel, and John Swindells (see below for an excellent letter by Cllr Swindells) - but South Ribble Council are also listening to the evidence we have researched and made publicly available on the 'Save The Ribble' Blog, and to the serious concerns raised by South Ribble residents, and seem to have forced a halt to the project.
The new political make-up in South Ribble occurred largely as a result of South Ribblers' concerns about Preston's plans for the Penwortham side of the river - and the successful South Ribble Conservatives campaigned about local concerns regarding Preston's plans for South Ribble - particularly the Riverworks plans for building a huge new urban conurbation on the Penwortham Green Belt and floodplain.
We are extremely pleased that our tireless research, and our innovative blogging and campaigning techniques to let the public know about the real impacts of what a barrage and building developments would mean for our River, environment, Green Belt, floodplains, riverbanks, allotments, sports pitches, and communities, have encouraged Councillors and Council Officials to start to listen, and begin to think about making informed decisions and take the only logical step of opposing the barrage and building development schemes.
Our hope now is that common sense prevails and the barrage and riverside building developments will be consigned from the drawing board to it's rightful place in the dustbin.
Mr Carr's statement will not be anywhere near clear enough for most Preston residents, especially those living in areas that would face an increased flood risk if the barrage and floodplain housing were built, and those who care deeply about the Ribble environment - the council must state absolutely whether the barrage and the associated housing plans are off the council agenda for good, or whether they will later be drawn back out of their coffin like a vampire in the absence of the clear sunlight of public attention, which has been focussed by the Save The Ribble campaign onto this dangerously stupid, irresponsible and highly unpopular project.
We also have major concerns that the Vision Board has still not abandoned it's plans to turn the Southern bank of the Ribble into a suburban extension of 'Greater Preston', there is no doubt that greedy developers have their eyes on this land, and that they still have strong influence over the future of our area.
According to the LEP, Mr Carr also said that what the Governments decides regarding 'targets for new homes' in the area 'would also guide the future of the riverside plans, which centre around new housing overlooking a marina created by the barrage'.
But surely targets for new homes don't specify that these need to be built on the banks of the river or on the Green Belt and floodplains?!!
Any new housebuilding in either Preston or South Ribble needs to avoid building in areas at high risk of flooding - as the Environment Agency advise. Otherwise the new houses and our existing homes will be at even greater risk of flooding, and our beautiful riverside areas, our football pitches and allotments, would be lost beneath tonnes of concrete, ruining their precious contribution to our environment as well as increasing the flood risk to our homes!!
South Ribble and Preston Councils must give a clear guarantee to the people that the greenbelt and floodplain land by the Ribble is sacrosanct, and will be kept as a beautiful green and natural area for the public to enjoy forever.
Also today, the LEP have published an excellent letter from Cllr John Swindells in which he states:
"Until May I was Preston City Council's cabinet member for environment and sustainability. During my term I discussed the Ribble barrage with many groups and organisations including the RSPB, Environment Agency, the Anglers Conservation Association etc. All these organisations were united in their total opposition to the barrage. In fact I never spoke to any organisation who voiced their support for the barrage."
you can click on the letter to read it in full...
Councillor Swindells continues:
"There followed the LEP survey where an overwhelming number of Prestonians were against the scheme.
I also attended conferences in Cardiff where I discussed the Cardiff Bay scheme. I discovered that the scheme had an original estimate of £40m but eventually cost £200m and now needs £20m per year spent on it to mitigate the environmental impact it has had.
Far from the saviour of Cardiff it has proved to be a millstone around the city's neck".
As far as the implications for the River Ribble are concerned, John Swindells continues:
"This year much of the flooding in England has been caused by land drains not being able to take the rainfall. The Ribble's land drains empty at low water, these drains will be permanently under water if the barrage is built. To remedy this the cost of new drains can only make the scheme uneconomic.
"With this floodtide of opposition and evidence I am staggered that the Vision Board continues to favour a feasibility study.
"Much of the Riverworks scheme has a lot going for it but the barrage would destroy a unique environment and would put Preston at severe risk of flooding".
In his letter Councillor Swindells raises a number of serious issues - not least the spectre of Preston Vision Board...
Whilst Preston Council have been forced to slow down on the barrage by having to listen to South Ribble's opinions on the issues, to whom are Preston Vision Board accountable...?
We watch and we wait, and meanwhile the Ribble continues to flow...
Find out more on the 'Save The Ribble' blog: http://save-the-ribble.blogspot.com