AN open letter has been sent to councillors begging them to stop ‘ignoring’ residents’ concerns over flooding.

The Clitheroe Residents Action Group (CRAG) sent the letter to Nigel Evans MP, members of the Ribble Valley Council and Lancashire County Council at the end of February, in response to the damage to homes and businesses caused by Storm Ciara.

The letter contained responses to a question asked by CRAG on their Facebook page as to ‘whether building new housing estates around Clitheroe and the Ribble Valley had contributed to the current floods’.

Chairman of the group, Steve Rush, said no one from Ribble Valley Council responded to their letter, with only Mr Evans sending a reply.

Mr Rush said: “The silence has been deafening. Not one person acknowledged this correspondence, let alone issued a reply.

“Our MP responded but we believe the government he represents has contributed towards this flooding misery by insisting we build 5,600 houses over a 20-year period.

“In the first 12 years the Ribble Valley is approaching 7,000 new house permissions with approximately half having already been built.”

Mr Rush said when a planning application is refused locally, which the council has done in the past for Waddow Heights and in Billington, it is taken to appeal by the developer.

The developer is then able to push the appeal through, using the promise of ‘affordable housing’ as leverage to begin building on what CRAG believes to be flood plains.

Mr Rush added: “The local taxpayer is left powerless to stop houses being built on or close to flood plains.

“Three emails were sent to Ribble Valley Council about the flooding of Clitheroe Cemetery, but neither the chief executive, director of economic development and planning, or the leader of the council responded regarding future plans to avoid these stressful floods.

“The cemetery had never previously flooded, so we feel it’s coincidence that once the new-builds commence it ends up under water.

“These floods are not a one-off situation. They’ve happened twice in four years and one thing is for sure, with a minimum of 3,500 houses still to build, it will only get worse.”

More than 13,000 people viewed the question when CRAG posted it on their Facebook page in February, and more than 100 responses were received.

These ranged from: “Sites were not called ‘flood plains’ for nothing, concreting over them leads to more floods.”

“One inch of rainfall equates to 27,000 gallons of water per acre. So, where does all that water go, when land is all covered in tarmac and concrete?

“Clitheroe has already met its target for houses so, unless they are affordable houses, no more should be built.”

CRAG urged Mr Evans to lobby the Government with a view to local authorities deciding future planning applications, asked Lancashire County Council to dredge the rivers and streams and clean the drains more regularly, and pleaded with Ribble Valley Council to take more consideration before giving developers permission to build on flood plains.

Mr Evans responded to CRAG by saying: “There should be no reason to continue building new developments here when the towns of East Lancashire have better infrastructure.

“I have always been in agreement that there should be a curb on new housing in the Ribble Valley and have previously lobbied the Government on this point.

“As requested in your open letter I will write to Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, asking if more powers can be granted to local authorities to have more say over future planning applications."

A Ribble Valley Council spokesman said: “The CRAG letter tries to blame the recent floods on house-building and whatever response we give will be unlikely to change their view.

“February was the wettest month on record, with many parts of the United Kingdom seeing significant rainfall and flooding.

“The Rivers Ribble, Calder and Hodder flow through the borough, which means during prolonged wet weather flooding unfortunately occurs."