"Outrageous": three-year delay to new drains for flood-prone Preston suburb

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Work on a sewer upgrade designed to reduce the risk of flooding in a Preston suburb will not begin until next winter - almost three years after it was first promised.

Residents in the Hoyles Lane area of Cottam have been dogged by drainage problems since hundreds of new homes began to spring up as part of the planned expansion of North West Preston. The road itself - and the gardens of people living along the route - regularly flood during heavy downpours.

Just before the onset of the pandemic, in March 2020, water firm United Utilities acknowledged that the sewer system was unable to cope even with the current flows of water - and admitted that further housing development would only make matters worse.

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At the time, the company said that the flooding situation had also been “exacerbated” by the actions of an unnamed “third party” the previous year.

The drainage system on Hoyles Lane demonstrating its inability to cope with heavy rain last week (image: John Potter)The drainage system on Hoyles Lane demonstrating its inability to cope with heavy rain last week (image: John Potter)
The drainage system on Hoyles Lane demonstrating its inability to cope with heavy rain last week (image: John Potter)
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Locals were told that temporary measures had been taken to address the issue, but United Utilities said that increasing the capacity of the system was the only way of fully fixing the problems. It gave February 2021 as its “high-level” estimate of when work would get under way to reduce the risk being faced by residents.

However, the firm has told the Lancashire Post that the scheme will now begin “towards the end of the year”.

John Potter, Preston West representative on Lancashire County Council, said that even the delay to date was “outrageous” - and that residents would be furious that they would have to spend even longer living “in fear of flooding every time heavy rainfall occurs”.

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Lib Dem county councillor John Potter has branded the delays to the new sewer system on Hoyles Lane "unacceptable"Lib Dem county councillor John Potter has branded the delays to the new sewer system on Hoyles Lane "unacceptable"
Lib Dem county councillor John Potter has branded the delays to the new sewer system on Hoyles Lane "unacceptable"

“It was supposed to be finished by now, but it’s not even started. This is totally unacceptable and no excuses will be acceptable to the community that is having to deal with the ongoing consequences of these delays.

“United Utilities’ monopoly status is the only thing keeping many people from walking away from their terrible service record in North Preston,” Cllr Potter said.

A spokesperson for United Utilities said of the planned works: “We are sorry for the delay to this project and would like to reassure residents that we are committed to carrying out upgrades to our sewer network in the area to help increase capacity and reduce the risk of flooding.

“Project funding is approved and we are due to award the contract this month. Engineers will be on site carrying out ground investigations in the coming weeks, which will allow the final designs to be confirmed to ensure we can deliver the most cost-effective and appropriate solution. Construction work will then begin towards the end of the year.”

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Hoyles Lane has seen huge swathes of new development along its length, which have caused flooding problems on days less sunny than this one (image: Google)Hoyles Lane has seen huge swathes of new development along its length, which have caused flooding problems on days less sunny than this one (image: Google)
Hoyles Lane has seen huge swathes of new development along its length, which have caused flooding problems on days less sunny than this one (image: Google)

The company said when it first revealed its plans for the remedial project that it would take around 18 months to complete.

In 2021, developer David Wilson Homes was praised for amending its plans for a 210-dwelling estate off Hoyles Lane in order to lessen the chance of the additional properties causing further flooding in the area.

Preston city councillor Trevor Hart - who represents the Ingol and Cottam ward - told a town hall planning meeting that existing residents had experienced “continuous issues with development that has changed their lives”.

“So when the next development comes along, you can totally understand their concerns,” he explained.