In February this year after St Helens Borough Council secured funding from the Liverpool City Region (Transforming Cities Fund) and European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the Environment Agency and their framework contractors began work to remove silt from Rainford Brook, starting at College Street through Merton Bank Road and up to Park Road, Blackbrook.
Works came to a standstill in late March as plans were revised to deal with contaminated river material. The uncertainty around operating at the start of coronavirus also reduced the ability to deliver works before the planned postponement required to adhere to the Wildlife and Countryside Bird nesting Act 1981.
Before the first national lockdown, the Environment Agency had already completed approximately 1,100m of river channel desilting works, with the remaining 300m finished last week.
Councillor Andy Bowden, St Helens Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport, said:
“While there is no immediate risk of internal flooding to nearby properties in this case, St Helens Borough Council is committed to reducing flood risk for residents, commuters and nearby businesses who have faced the inconvenience of a town centre access route closing on a number of occasions in the last year alone.
“Not only will this work reduce the frequency and severity of flooding, but it will also open up cycling routes along Sankey Canal which lays claims to being the first modern canal in England.”
St Helens Council Leader, Councillor David Baines added: “The flooding issue in College Street has been a concern for some years now and when I became council leader, I went to visit the area and spoke with the owner of Stone Tyres and others.
“Although the majority of businesses in the area remain open when College Street is closed due to flooding, the inconvenience and impact it has on them and their customers, and residents too, is frustrating and unacceptable and we needed to do all we could to address the problem – so I’m delighted work is now complete to reduce the impact and frequency of flood risk in the area.”
Peter Costello, Area Flood and Coastal Risk Manager for the Environment Agency said: “It’s great to see the completion of the College Street works which will benefit the local community by reducing flood risk to nearby properties and open up green spaces for everyone to enjoy.
“Our operations teams undertake maintenance work throughout the year to reduce flood risk. However, the climate emergency means we cannot always prevent or build our way out of an incident and we always encourage people have access to the information they need to prepare, act, survive. This includes checking their flood risk online and signing up for our free flood warnings.”
Welcoming the news, local business owner John Stone of Stone Tyres – who has spoken out about the need for something to be done to address the issue – said:
“I am extremely grateful to the council and in particular David Baines and Gary Maddock (Town Centre Manager) who have worked closely with myself and other businesses each time the road was closed to mitigate damage to our businesses.
“This is a massive achievement which will now help keep one of the main roads into the town centre open more often and help our business to stay open and thrive, the benefits of which will not only be felt by local businesses but also plenty of local residents who use the road on a daily basis.”
As well as arranging the project to help alleviate flooding frequency and severity of College Street near the railway bridge and any overspilling of the main river at Islands Brow and Merton Bank Road – St Helens Borough Council has also recently carried out resurfacing works at College Street and Haresfinch Road to improve the condition of the roads.
St Helens Borough Council is working closely in partnership with the Environment Agency in managing local flood risks throughout the borough, including College Street, and will bid for future funding opportunities in relation to flood risk management.