More than 500 homes and businesses in Northwich will be better protected from the devastating effects of flooding after unanimous approval was given for a £4.5m defence scheme.
Members of Cheshire West and Chester Council’s (CWaC) strategic planning committee all voted for the project, which involves walls, embankments, flood gates and water-proofing of properties, at the confluence of the River Weaver and River Dane.
Glass panels will be incorporated at points throughout the town centre including along Northwich Marina and Weaver Way to tie in with the Baron’s Quay retail and leisure experience development.
Northwich is prone to flooding with the most significant flood event taking place in February 1946 when 256 houses and 70 shops were flooded. In recent times, the town experienced flooding in 2000 and twice in 2012.
Cllr Jill Houlbrook (Con, Upton) said: “There has been a tremendous focus on Northwich and it’s a lovely little town. I like to think of it as Chester’s baby sister. It’s a delightful place to visit and it’s so nice to see this coming forward, which will improve it even more.
“I like the idea of the glass frontage – when I first heard about it I was ‘ooh’ – but I think it means you have that protection but you’re not taking away the views.”
Cllr Norman Wright (Con, Marbury), who seconded the proposal, told the committee he had lived in Northwich all his life. He said: “Cheshire West Council has invested a lot of money in Northwich, it’s got the Memorial Court, it’s got Asda coming and it’s got the cinema coming and Waitrose already there, we’ve invested a lot of money in the Bull Ring, it’s all been relaid cobbles etc.
“I welcome this, I think it will protect residents – there’s an elderly persons’ home nearby that’s been flooded and had to be evacuated a few times.”
“The best laid plans can have unintended consequences, however, this report shows considerable detailed research has been taken and I’m very satisfied the officers have absolutely undertaken the detailed checks and balances required.”
The Environment Agency’s flood defence scheme will cost about £4.5m, with £2.2m from government and £500,000 committed by CWaC.
David Brown, from the Agency, explained that this was a one-off opportunity as funding was time-limited. “We have to be on site by March 2015,” he said.
Council leader Cllr Mike Jones (Con, Tattenhall) said: “Northwich has suffered from a great deal of a lack of confidence for 30 or 40 years for two particular reasons. The first was the top level salt mines and the second is the flooding. That has prevented any particular interest and inward investment into Northwich. The previous council filled the salt mines and we are doing a great deal to build on that piece of work.”
One dissenting voice was John Tackley, chairman of the River Weaver Navigation Society, who appealed for members to reject the plan and instead concentrate on dredging.
He said: “The Weaver in Northwich is capable of taking larger sea-going craft but years of neglect are denying these craft access to the river as it continues to silt up. More and more this neglect, largely a lack of dredging and the encroachment of weed growth, is holding back the flood water that needs to be rapidly progressed downstream.
“The current proposals seek to perpetuate this neglect by largely ignoring this particular problem and sealing off the river frontage from boating and pedestrian access altogether by erecting high flood walls on Weaver Way.”