Fears over loss of key flood warning in West Cumbria

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16 July 2017 1:49PM

A key flood warning could be lost if plans for a willow farm in West Cumbria get the go-ahead - residents claim.

Mitchells Land Agency has launched a consultation into plans to plant willow in the field behind Glenfield Place, Barepot, on behalf of the landowner.

But residents say they they will lose an essential flood warning system, as the crops would be located between the properties and the River Derwent.

And there are also fears the willow would block the sewage system of nearby homes and the plants would generate vermin.

Stan Bell, 73, said: "When we get flood conditions, the river comes across the field.

"Once the river gets to a certain distance, we know we need to be thinking about moving our stuff and getting out of the property. There is only one road in and out of here and this field is the best flood warning we could have.

"If the willow was planted we would lose that, because it can grow up to three metres in the first year."

Michael Willis, 43, said: "It's a point of reference, I have a three-year-old girl and I'm concerned about her safety."

Sandy Brown, of Mitchells, said the firm was carrying out an Environmental Impact Assessment and consulting relevant agencies such as the Environment Agency and Allerdale council.

She said: "We're consulting the residents and gathering all the comments. All the relevant agencies have been contacted about the project and we'll look at all the responses and concerns."

The project would be carried out with Iggesund, which would co-ordinate contractors for planting, harvesting and collecting the willow, which would then be used for the company's biomass boiler.

But residents are concerned about heavy machinery coming in and out of the area.

Steve Carini, 53, said: "These roads are terrible and the situation will be made worse by the big machines coming in and out. There are children around here who play outside. I think it's all wrong."

Jonny Lowe, of Iggesund, said: "The consultation is there to get people's views and mitigate those concerns."

Residents are also concerned the price of their homes would drop.

Mr Carini said: "We flooded in 2009 and again in 2015, if there's willow here no one will want to buy these houses. It will block the beautiful view we have of the river."

Brenda Nevens, 68, said: "We bought a house down here because of the view, it's like in the country but it's just outside town. Can you imagine what it will be like with willow three metres high."

Doreen Hartley, 75, has lived in Glenfield Place for 52 years. She said the 10-acre field has always been used for sheep grazing.

She said: "It will be like living in a forest."

Residents have time until July 19 to contact Mitchells land Agency to give their views on the proposal.

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