WEST KIRBY: Plans for a flood wall along Merseyside promenade
Plans for a flood wall along one Merseyside promenade will “destroy” its character according to a petition, but it could save homes and lives.
Wirral Council’s proposal to defend West Kirby from floods involves building a 1.2m flood wall stretching across 1.15km of coastline.
On the authority’s website the planning application has attracted 175 comments at the time of writing, with 161 opposing the proposal and 11 in favour.
The plan is due to be considered at a public meeting of the council’s planning committee in March, but a petition called ‘Save West Kirby Promenade’ calls on councillors to reject the authority’s plans.
The petitioner, a local resident who did not want to be named, said: “It would be a tragic error to build a 1.2m flood wall down the middle of West Kirby Promenade.
“It is visited by thousands of people every year and I feel the council has not given that enough weight in its decision making.”
He added that other options, such as demountable defences, could prevent flooding.
However, it is understood that detailed scientific surveys have concluded that other options are not feasible.
The cost of the wall is currently estimated to be £6m, but the LDRS understands that the council has managed to get most of the costs funded by government agencies.
Planning documents prepared for the application show the severity of the flood risk to West Kirby.
One document said: “The present day predicted flood levels show that for a 20% annual exceedance probability South Parade is likely to require closing and external flooding will occur to properties.
“With allowance for climate change in 100 years time the 20% annual exceedance probability is expected to flood over 150 properties internally and South Parade and other local roads will be closed.
“The height of the new wall will be 1.2 metres above ground level, which will reduce flood risk up to the 0.5% annual exceedance probability.”
While not giving a specific figure for potential deaths which could be caused by the flooding if action is not taken, the document continued: “The level of protection on offer by year 100, could potentially reduce the number of assumed fatalities by over 75%.”
Cllr Liz Grey, chair of Wirral Council’s environment committee, supports the flood wall plan.
The Labour councillor said: “This scheme has been through a very long planning stage and local councillors and residents have been engaged and have contributed throughout. The design has been changed and has included suggestions from these consultations.
“This is very much a collective scheme for and with local people.
“I believe that it is a small but vocal minority who are trying to politicise this and who are wilfully jeopardising the safety of local people, businesses and properties in ignoring the very real and increasing danger of extreme flooding events now and in the future as sea levels continue to rise and our weather becomes more hostile due to climate change.”
Cllr Grey was clear on the basis of her support for the plan.
She added: “All planning has been based on clear scientific data and is supported by the Environment Agency. I just cannot understand why anyone would want to reject the money that has been offered to us to defend people from catastrophic flooding in the not too distant future.
“In line with United Nations and our own Government guidelines, we have to do all we can to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, but we also have a duty to do what we can to adapt to the changes which are now unavoidable.
“Sea levels will rise. Flooding events will get worse. The people of West Kirby must be protected.”
The flood wall mainly affects two wards within the council, West Kirby and Thurstaston and Hoylake and Meols.
One local councillor, Jeff Green, who leads the Conservative group on the council, said he understood the need for the proposal.
Cllr Green said: “Working with colleagues we ensured that there was a full and detailed consultation put in place.
“It has informed the ideas and the proposals that were coming forward. I accept the science from the Environment Agency on the flooding risk and government departments do not normally give significant amounts of money in order to support sea defence schemes if they are not backed up by the science.
“We have seen over the years a number of occasions where the sea has topped over and flooded [the nearby] area.”
Cllr Green, who represents West Kirby and Thurstaston, said all of this persuaded him to support the proposal, but added that it will need to be agreed at the planning committee, another opportunity for the public to have their say.
He added that this was a “once in a hundred year investment in West Kirby Promenade”.
Words: George Morgan, Local Democracy Reporter
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