The Grade-II listed landmark in Astley Park made national headlines back in January when it was almost entirely submerged after a nearby culvert beneath Southport Road became blocked. It was the second time in less than six months that the building, situated in a dip to the east of the busy route, had been overwhelmed by flood water.
Chorley Council, which owns the distinctive residence, revealed last year that it had set aside cash to renovate the lodge, but called on highways authority Lancashire County Council to find a “comprehensive solution” to increasingly regular flooding incidents. That plea has now been echoed in a 520-name petition to be sent to County Hall.
While January’s flood had an unusual cause – when debris from recently-felled trees was washed into the culvert – Chorley Central county councillor and borough mayor Steve Holgate says that the facility has shown that it cannot cope with extreme weather events.
Together with Chorley North West district councillors Sarah Ainsworth, Aaron Beaver and Matthew Lynch – and the town’s MP, Sir Lindsay Hoyle – he wants to see a larger culvert installed to reduce any future risk to the much-loved lodge.
“I asked the Environment Agency and Lancashire County Council if the building would be safe from flooding if we renovated it, but they said they couldn’t guarantee that with the current culvert – even if it was fully functioning and not blocked.
“I think the lodge has flooded three or four times this year – whereas it is normally about once every ten years. But even that is too often if you spend public money doing it up and you are then put back to square one.
“This culvert needs to be top of the county council highways department’s priority list, because we have got a listed building of unbelievable value – both culturally and [by virtue of] its place in the heart of the people of Chorley.
“But it also cost the county council thousands of pounds the last time there was flooding, because it washed away part of the pavement and road as well [for which the county authority is responsible]. It would be much better in our view if they found the capital to undertake the works – and then any future damage to the lodge and road simply won’t happen,” County Cllr Holgate added.
Dating back to 1842, the lodge has been unoccupied for around 30 years. It is understood that it was previously home to the park’s head gardener and his family.
Responding to the petition, a spokesperson for Lancashire County Council said: “The obstruction to the culvert under Southport Road which resulted in flooding earlier this year was caused by a large number of logs and branches which had washed into the river following tree felling operations in the area while awaiting collection.
“We are looking at options to reduce the risk of flooding in the future and have commissioned a study to fully understand the impact which factors such as the natural course of the river in this area, and infrastructure such as culverts, may be having upon the current capacity of the system to cope during flood events.
“This report will allow us to consider any possible solutions to reduce the risk of flooding, as well as their cost and likely effectiveness in a range of scenarios.”
Ackhurst Lodge was first listed in 1984 and, along with Astley Park and Hall, was gifted to the people of Chorley almost a century ago by Reginald Tatton in memory of those who died during World War One. According to Historic England, it is constructed of part infill wattle-and-daub with rendered brick and applied timber to the rear.
County Cllr Holgate says that it is “testament to the building techniques of years ago that it is actually still standing” after what it has been subjected to in recent years.