Salford flooding: Councillor argues flood defences prevented further devastation, we assess the environmental impacts

With Storm Frank quickly approaching, Salford locals are preparing for another wave of heavy rain to hit the city on Wednesday morning.

Community spirit against the floods has been inspiring.

And donations are still flying in from all over the country to the SalfordOnline.com Salford Storm Recovery Appeal Fund.

But with an amber weather warning issued against the North West for heavy rain, residents fear that the River Irwell could once again break its banks, and bring devastation to the community just four days after severe flooding across the city.

Prior to the flooding on Boxing Day, the highest recorded river level in Salford was 4.34m. When heavy rain fell down on the 26 December, however, the river level soared to around 4.8m: smashing the previous record.

Did Salford’s flood defences to their job?

SalfordOnline.com spoke to Councillor Derek Antrobus, the lead member for planning at Salford City Council.

Councillor Antrobus told us that the city’s flood defences prevented further destruction, and potential loss of life: “The biggest flood we’ve ever had in Salford in 1946 absolutely devastated the community- there are photos of people wading through the flood water with the water levels at chest height.

“The reason why there wasn’t the same impact as then was because of the flood basins such as those that we had constructed at Littleton Road, and the ongoing building of a flood defence at Castle Irwell. The flood defences did the job that they were supposed to do. And they’ve certainly saved flooding to further hundreds of properties, and likely saved lives. I think that’s something that we should be grateful for.

“You can’t build to every imaginable situation, you have to be sensible about things. If the flood defences need to be strengthened slightly, then that’s something we’ll look at.”

Councillor Antrobus said the greatest areas of risk of flooding in Salford is in Kersal and Lower Broughton, both of which lie in the floodplain of the River Irwell and were both greatly affected by the damage brought to the community on Boxing Day.

“All I would advise is that people should keep an eye on flood alerts, and if they have any questions please go to the environment agency for clear advice of what people should do. If their area is at risk of flooding, they should move their valuables upstairs, or elsewhere away from harm of the flooding.

“The most important thing is for people to keep safe; in past events of this scale we would have had a tremendous loss of life, and we’re fortunate that the defences prevented that from happening.”

SalfordOnline.com spoke to Dr Luke Blazejewski, 28, a local nature conservationist and expert in Salford wildlife. Dr Blazejewski said that the environmental impacts were “gutting” for nature lovers.

“One of the major impacts of flooding in a city is the impact on bird life. Birds such as kingfishers rely on the fish in the River Irwell as their main food source.

“But when extreme weather conditions occur like the flooding that we’ve had, the water flowing speed becomes so fast that the fish stocks are swept away. As a result, fish stock for birds to feed on deteriorates substantially.

“This puts them in danger, because they’re suddenly unable to feed themselves.

“At this time of year, we’re in the middle of hibernation periods of mammals. Hedgehogs and bats, two common species in Salford, are in the middle of their hibernation period- when the river bursts its banks, the excess water feeds into green spaces and brownfield sites, causing them to become waterlogged.

“This means that any mammals hiding in these spaces are sadly drowned out, particularly worrying because hedgehogs and bats are in serious decline around the whole of the UK.”

The floods minister Rory Stewart said tonight that communities in the North West were facing a “very bad” situation with heavy rain set to hit the region from midnight tonight.

You can find latest news updates, requests for help, offers of support and donations in the 15,000 member SalfordOnline.com Facebook group.

This article was written for Salford Online.

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