FARMERS are preparing to fight to save acres of much-loved scenic marshes from flooding – or falling into the control of wind farm developers.
Last year the Environment Agency revealed it was considering plans to turn off ‘vital’ pumping stations on Ince and Frodsham Marshes, raising fears that acres of farmland, village playing fields and even the M56 could turn to swampland.
Now, despite the consultation into the future of the decades-old pumps ending in April this year, the fate of the marshes still hangs in the balance, with the Agency yet to decide if it will turn off, keep running or transfer the ownership of the pumps – which cost £70,000 every year to run.
And, with talks expected to take place between Quinn Glass, Grow How, Peel Energy, Covanta and local farmers over the next two months, fears are growing the owner of the Frodsham wind farm, Peel Holdings, could soon take control of the pumping stations and marshes.
Eleanor Johnson, Cheshire West and Chester councillor for Gowy, said she was concerned that if the pumps were switched off the marshes surrounding Frodsham, Helsby and Ince would flood, destroying farmland and businesses.
“It is quite worrying to think of the impact this could have on the community,” said Cllr Johnson, who said this summer’s rainfall had caused the marshes to flood despite the pumps working and without them the area could be constantly swamped.
“There have been meetings with the businesses and landowners and the latest I have heard is Peel Holdings have offered to take on the ownership of the pumps. But the other businesses and farmers have suggested that everyone should own a quarter share so that no-one has full control of the pumps.”
Cllr Johnson said Quinn Glass, Grow How and other business owners and farmers were hoping to band together to run the pumps so one owner could not control the whole of the marshes, and refuse to repair the pumps if there was a dispute in the future.
“It is not as easy as just saying we will switch them off. The people’s lives and businesses down there will be seriously effected,” said Cllr Johnson.
An Environment Agency spokesman confirmed the five-month public consultation had come to an end and it was in talks with local business owners.
“We will now report back the results of both the consultation and extra research during another round of discussions with landowners, infrastructure owners and industrial companies concerned with the site,” he said.
“After this, we will state our preferred option for the site to the Regional Flood and Coastal Committee, which will have the final say and is expected to make an announcement in January.”
A spokesman for Peel Energy reassured residents the pumps would not have an impact on the wind farm, and Peel Holdings confirmed it was taking part in talks over the future of the pumps. Quinn glass say they are unaware of talks over privatisation of the pumps.