The Unknown Crusader

August 20, 2019
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Late 2018 and behind closed doors in Kendal on the edge of the Lake District, plans were being drawn up. Plans that would tear the green heart out of this beautiful, historic market town; Plans that would wreak havoc on its cherished riverside environment.

Red paint spray on the leaves of a tree

Almost no-one knew what was going on until someone with inside knowledge took a significant risk one night and did something remarkable! In the depths of Winter 2019, an unknown crusader sprayed red paint spots on trees. Not just a few trees. Hundreds of trees of all shapes and sizes, roughly following the course of the River Kent. In one stretch, from the Riverside Hotel in the north to K Village Shopping Centre in the south, over 220 trees bore the red marks. And people, understandably, started asking questions.

What transpired was a plan by the Environment Agency to remove a total of 779 trees and build high concrete walls to protect the town from flooding. Proudly they stated that the three-phase scheme would defend over one thousand homes and businesses in a 1 in 100 year event. But scratch the surface and the truth was not so palatable.

A red spot on a mature tree marked for felling

By the time people started asking questions, Phase 1 was only a few weeks away from being presented to the planning committee. Headlines in local newspapers - accompanied by pictures of Storm Desmond - told flood victims that their prayers had been answered. Public meetings were arranged, and the EA went all-out to sell the benefits of the scheme.

At the same time though, some extremely well-informed members of the public – who had studied the plans in detail – began to argue that the flood scheme was highly destructive, of minimal benefit, and severely flawed. Challenging questions were asked of the EA ahead of the planning meeting in February, and the council received more written objections than letters of support. The case AGAINST was strong with so many undeniable facts being presented:

  • The scheme would not protect against other Storm Desmond (1 in 200 year event) even if all three phases were completed.
  • Phase 1 ought to be the "last phase" to go ahead if funding constraints didn’t dictate otherwise.
  • Only Phase 1 could be presented for planning approval.
  • Phase 1 had to be approved quickly to access a pot of limited-time funding.
  • Only 227 homes and 71 businesses would actually be protected.
  • Flood protection for events no greater than 1 in 20 years.
  • Containing the fast-flowing river Kent with concrete walls would threaten Kendal’s bridges.
  • Between 20 and 40 homes would be newly at risk of flooding.
  • The riverbank would be stripped of its mature trees.
  • The river itself would be hidden behind a high concrete wall.
  • Kendal’s conservation area and scheduled monuments would be harmed.
  • The habitat of protected species including bats and Atlantic salmon would be lost.
  • The scheme would not address the considerable threat of surface and groundwater flooding.
  • There was no guarantee that the scheme would ever be completed.
  • Additional phases, in the hands of landowners, might not even make it to the planning stage.

So, what was the outcome of the planning meeting in February 2019?

The planning committee, astonishingly, unanimously approved the KFRMS Phase 1 with no guarantee that the additional phases would come forward at all.

Needless to say, we will continue to fight - You can join us!

Help us by signing our petition to Pause, Review and Rethink the plans. Work was due to start last June, but changes in the law regarding ancient monuments pushed the date back. The clock is ticking!


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