Nine months after the Boxing Day flood that hit Lower Broughton, residents are still angry about the lack of progress in resolving issues which led to cock ups and chaos when the River Irwell engulfed defences after Christmas.
It was only last week when the Salford City Council report** was finally issued, cataloguing the lack of emergency planning, resources and communication, and at a stormy community meeting last night at River View Primary School, officers from the Environment Agency (EA), Urban Vision and Salford City Council attempted to placate residents, to little effect.
Roger Baldry, who retired from the Irwell Valley Sustainable Communities recently and was present on the day, summed up residents' frustrations when he criticised the delay in releasing the report and acting upon its 21 recommendations...
"If we'd had that report as far back as April we wouldn't be in the situation where we are now, nine months on" he said "...People have had two alerts since then and are frightened because they don't know what additional elements of protection they are going to get, what advice they are going to get, what things they can do in the event of another flood. We've got winter approaching. What we want to know is what we're going to do in the event of an alert..."
His sentiments were echoed by resident Keri Muldoon, who slated the lack of education about flood warnings and alerts from the Environment Agency and Salford Council... "As soon as we get a flood alert everyone starts flapping" she said "You both need your heads smacking together!"
As Matt Ryan, from Urban Vision, and David Hunter, from Salford Council, attempted to go through the Council report via a projected slideshow, they were constantly heckled. And constantly apologised, together with Environment Agency officers, for the lack of action on Boxing Day...
"I stood and watched that flood basin fill but didn't take any other action apart from making sure the flood basin was secure" said David Hunter who is Salford Council's Chief Officer for Contingencies and was, kind of, in charge on the day, and is still in charge "...We didn't have an evacuation plan for flooding... I made the decision to take everyone to this school, and that was stupid because it got flooded half an hour afterwards..."
The Environment Agency officer addressed the lack of flood warnings to the community... "We missed it, we shouldn't have missed it, we're very sorry we missed it" she said.
Meanwhile, an action plan of what will happen in the future was shown. But, as Roger Baldry stated, everything announced was about what is going to be done, not what has already been done...
"We're working with water companies to see whether we can come to some agreement to reduce levels in reservoirs higher up to store water" explained the Environment Agency officer...
"We're trying to get a response from United Utilities" said Matt Ryan of Urban Vision, after a resident criticised the state of the drains...
"We're looking at raising the footbridges which held debris" said the Council's David Hunter "It's not going to take place overnight...We're going to review the use of sandbagging..."
"Should we have temporary barriers? Should the wall actually be raised on a permanent basis?" asked the Council's Head of Planning, Chris Findley "All these things need to be properly assessed...I would refute that the Council hasn't actually done anything. All sorts of things need to be done..."
Even a siren for a flood warning is still being `explored', with a huge row breaking out between Salford Council and the Environment Agency over who is going to pay for it...
"The Environment Agency no longer installs siren systems, however we are very happy to work with the Council and community if they want one...but in terms of an Environment Agency owned, maintained and operated system, we're not in a position to do that" said the officer, who added later "The reason is that if we have one in Salford, why not everywhere else? Then we have a secondary flood warning system that frankly we can't resource."
Broughton Councillor John Merry responded, telling residents that the City Mayor will be "writing to the Environment Agency to urge support for a siren in the area because I think you've made it very clear tonight that that's what you want – a system that warns you over and above the Environment Agency computer."
Residents were perplexed that even a basic siren couldn't be sorted out... "All we want is a siren, or someone to blow a whistle or something to get everyone out" resident Chris shouted "We didn't get any warning at all..."
Meanwhile, the Council's David Hunter ploughed on with his five `R'-points slideshow of actions...Resistance; Resilience; Readiness; Response and Recovery.
These were basically covered in the recommendations within the Council's report...
...That the second flood basin off Littleton Road is ready but not signed off...that one list of vulnerable people will be available...that everyone in the affected areas will receive flood awareness brochures and evacuation packs of what to do, where to go, what to take and when to go...
"We've got to ensure we've got a proper evacuation plan in place to get people out of those places before it happens" he said.
Councillor Merry pledged that "In December the Mayor will write to every resident in the flood area with details of what's been achieved in terms of the action plan, what's still to be achieved and the barriers to it."
And the Council's David Hunter added "We're already on with the plan. We've obviously been waiting for the reports to come out but we've already started to do some work on it. I'm not saying we're ready but we're getting there..."
Many residents the Salford Star spoke to didn't believe this was good enough, nine months after the flood... "It's another load of bollocks", said one woman at the end of the meeting.
*Other issues raised were the state of the flood doors that have been installed in some of the houses; the lack of insurance cover available and how businesses were left to fend for themselves.
**For full details of the Salford City Council Flood report see previous Salford Star article – click here
There's also links on this article to the Council Flood report itself and previous articles on the Government and Greater Manchester flood reports.
Photos by Steven Speed