Work begins on £76 million Kendal flood defences - more than five years after Storm Desmond

  • Video report by Fiona Marley Patterson

More than five years after Storm Desmond, work has officially begun on Kendal's £76 million flood defences.

It is hoped the scheme will protect more than 1400 homes and over one thousand businesses.

More homes were flooded in the town than anywhere else in Cumbria in 2015. Kendal has been granted the most money, but it has taken longer for building to start there than in other areas.

And the project continues to divide opinion.

Aerial shot of Kendal during the floods

Keith Ashcroft, the Environment Agency's Area Director for Cumbria and Lancashire, explains how the scheme will work.

He said: "The first job is repairing and strengthening this old flood defences wall.

"They'll then move around Kendal over the next two and a half years which includes putting in the new sections of wall, hoping to have it all in by Autumn 2023.

"This is phase one, they're already designing phases two and three, hoping to put in for planning by next Spring with the aim to start building next year."

The Kendal scheme is a kind of mosaic - if you will - of traditional approaches of building walls, which in urban settings really is what you need to do to provide that protection but we are looking at holding water back further up the catchment.

Keith Ashcroft, Environment Agency Area Director for Cumbria and Lancashire

The Environment Agency says it has taken over five years for the work to commence because they needed to get these £76 million plans right.

Some, however, say they still haven't.

Credit: Fiona Marley-Paterson

'Save the Heart of Kendal' campaigner, Cheryl Berry, said "I think we're absolutely devastated.

From a personal point of view I'm heartbroken. I think it's vandalising the town. It's ruining the whole heritage, conservation, everything about town itself.

'Save the Heart of Kendal' campaigner, Cheryl Berry

"To have a nearly five-mile concrete wall through the centre of town. It's actually dividing the town from its river. They're now saying that our local stone isn't even the right colour and they're travelling two hundred miles for that stone."

Storm Desmond changed thousands of lives in Kendal, and when the water rose, emotions rose with it.

That's backed the arguments on both sides for five years.

Councillor Shirley Evans, from Sandylands Flood Action Group, said:

"There are still people who are afraid, concerned, worried every time it rains so these flood defences are really important to keep them safe.

"The people need to come first, that is absolutely important. I mean it is the people who are the heart of Kendal; the people who got flooded; the people who came out and helped the people who got flooded.

"They're the beating heart of Kendal. Yes the Kent is important; yes trees are important but people's livelihoods; people's mental health; their wellbeing; their financial security that has got to come first so I'm really, really pleased that the work has started."

For some, the new flood defences are vandalism. For others they represent hope.

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