Apart from being where we live, Cockermouth and Keswick are truly beautiful towns in their own right, and that’s why it hurts when we witness the recent devastation caused by flooding. The weather of Jan 2005, Nov 2009 and Dec 2015 has been described by politicians and the Environment Agency as ‘exceptional’, but this may not be the case for the future. A worrying aspect of ‘climate change’ may be the increased frequency of events like these for our region. In order to protect our homes and town infrastructure higher flood defences may be needed but some man-made changes in our towns are also making matters worse.
As you read this article plans are well advanced to begin construction of a 320 dwelling housing estate on the green field site at Strawberry How on the east perimeter of Cockermouth. This estate was given approval by Allerdale Borough Council in Dec 2014 and is to be constructed on a known flood plain area. The developer has done flood calculations which, it’s claimed, are based on the once in 100 year flood event. You may recall our MP at the time standing in Cockermouth in Nov 2009 quoting the Environment Agency (who provide the data for these calculations) that this was a “once in 1000 year flood”. Few in Cockermouth and Keswick believe that today. Is it possible that these flood calculations are underestimating or simply wrong? The normally placid beck that runs through the Strawberry How development site was a raging torrent over the Dec 5th weekend as water from surrounding fields and roads cascaded across this site. The effect of large housing estates with roof drains and tarmac roads is to greatly accelerate water into local water courses – in this case the ‘Tom Rudd Beck’. Attempts by developers to mitigate flooding of the houses in their own estates results in significantly larger volumes of water heading at high speed towards the local rivers – in this case the River Cocker and, of course, Cockermouth town centre. In addition, by rapidly increasing the flow towards an already swollen river, the flood risk to all downstream properties that border this beck is significantly increased.
It’s reasonable to assume that the effect of climate change on Lake District rainfall levels is not yet fully understood. However, the evidence of recent years is that not only will it increase but it may fall in very large amounts over very short periods – a perfect recipe for flooding.
Until we understand this change it is foolish in the extreme to be building estates of this magnitude in known flood risk areas. Sadly it’s the residents and not the developers or Allerdale Borough Council or the Environment Agency or politicians that ultimately pay the price. The planned Strawberry How housing development should therefore be halted until we understand more clearly its effect on the future flood risk to Cockermouth and its residents.
Story Homes are pushing hard to start building at Strawberry How. How can this be right. We all need to start writing to our Councillors, our MP, Prince Charles anyone who will listen and STOP this development NOW!