Read this extract of an investigation into Story Homes’ Strawberry Grange development – and if you want the full story buy Issue 5 of The Cockermouth Curiosity on sale now! To read this and more fascinating articles like this buy The Cockermouth Curiosity at the Moon & Sixpence, Sarah’s, Shills, JBBanks Ironmongers, The Trout Hotel, Percy House Gallery, Limelighting, Lorton Village Shop, and in Great Broughton, the Bakehouse and Post Office.
The site is magnificent. The first phase of Story Homes’ development at Strawberry Grange commands lovely views south to the North Lakes peaks. The houses are close to Cockermouth’s renowned specialist shops, cafes and restaurants. On the face of things the plot is an estate agent’s dream. A visitor might worry that the new estate is bisected by a deep gorge. But on a sunny day the small stream gurgling at the bottom of the valley seems innocent enough. Also, the salesman reassuringly says the space will be kept as a lovely “Blue Corridor” for recreation, not residence. Story Homes is building 96 dwellings in phase one of the project. And it has just applied for permission to build 224 more in the second phase on a noticeably higher plot. Allerdale Borough Council is expected to give its decision by July. So it’s a good time to reflect on why Strawberry Grange has become one of the most passionately-opposed building projects ever launched in Cumbria. Campaigners led by Cockermouth author Judy Whiteside have written formally to Communities Secretary Sajid Javid MP demanding he scrap phase two, because it would “significantly increase flooding in the town.” No fewer than 875 households – more than one in 10 residents of Cockermouth – have objected to the project. The reason for concern is no mystery. Catastrophic floods in 2009 left 1,400 people homeless for months after the fast-flowing Derwent and Cocker Rivers burst their banks submerging Main Street below 8 feet of water. A second flood in 2015 saw water levels reach 4.5 feet. That time an estimated 700 homes and businesses were washed out despite the installation of a £4.4 million self-raising flood barrier system part-funded by residents. Yet promised Environment Agency works to mitigate future devastation have hardly got off the drawing board. Naturally residents want to stop developments that might cause a repeat. Many were mystified when in December 2014 Allerdale approved the first phase of Strawberry Grange. The reason is the thing the salesmen call the “Blue Corridor” is actually a Level 2 Flood Zone, “normally” expected to flood between once a century and once in a thousand years.