IT IS pleasing to see Stewart Mounsey of the Environment Agency inviting members of the public concerned about the proposed Kendal flood relief scheme to get in touch with questions and concerns (Letters, February 20, ‘Flood scheme will be the best possible').

I wonder, though, if Mr Mounsey has any intention of providing any actual answers.

Early in 2019, and being deeply concerned about the long-term damaging consequences of the scheme, I sent a number of questions to the EA.

Having never received a detailed reply, I sent the questions again early in 2020. The only answer given to either email was a standard message suggesting I look at the EA’s flood scheme website. This is not, in any way, and on such a major issue, acceptable.

Could I therefore take advantage of Mr Mounsey’s offer and invite him to respond via the pages of this newspaper? In this way the reading public will be able to judge for themselves whether he or members of his team have any intention of providing answers to specific - and highly valid - questions raised by members of the community on what is the most divisive issue our community has faced in living memory.

I very much look forward to seeing the answers in print, and also to hearing from others whose questions were previously ignored, to hear they have at last been answered.

I am taking this opportunity to put just a few of those questions here. I also invite Mr Mounsey to continue responding to all other questions, including Freedom of Information requests, raised by people who remain deeply concerned the proposed scheme is not in any way the best, either for our town or for those whose homes lie south of Kendal where increased rates of flow are likely to inflict destructive consequences:

- Has there been a perceived increased need for the flood walls since the Sainsbury’s supermarket development was built on a flood plain?

- What is the perceived risk to properties and land downstream of the scheme, assuming flood water is likely to speed up here?

- I understand that in both Cockermouth and Keswick the flood walls did not hold back the most serious floods. Has the EA been engaged in any attempts to rethink the management of flood risk?

- I understand the scheme was originally to have been the third in a three-phase plan which included flood alleviation upstream and flood attenuation in the uplands. I also understand Brexit and European funding are the main drivers behind this phase of the scheme being implemented first. Why has no attempt been made to put the first two phases in place first?

- Isn’t this phase wholly dependent upon the other two phases to work properly?

- Why has only one per cent of the total budget been allocated for natural flood management when the Kent is an SSSI [Site of Special Scientific Interest] and an SAC [Special Area of Conservation], and when studies from both Lancaster and Newcastle universities show the river system is entirely suitable for alternatives to damaging, hard engineering.

- What is the total figure for carbon emissions the flood walls will release into our atmosphere?

- Why the silence to entirely valid questions?

We are living in an accelerating climate crisis but our wider landscape has vast potential for ameliorating flood risks. Any competent response to flooding must consider the whole catchment and work across sectors. This should include comprehensive planting of the uplands with scrub and trees to help manage flood risks as well as to help boost our gravely failing biodiversity.

It is perhaps the right time to ask what on earth the preservation of an entire landscape means in the wider context of a looming environmental catastrophe. Paying our upland farmers to help bring about the necessary change is just part of what is needed.

Mr Mounsey, over to you.

Karen Lloyd


EDITOR’S note: the Gazette contacted Stewart Mounsey and here is his response:

DEAR Ms Lloyd

I’m sorry you feel so strongly about our response to questions regarding the Kendal Flood Risk Management Scheme (FRMS). The Environment Agency carefully logs any letters, emails or Freedom of Information requests received, and has answered hundreds of inquiries in recent months. I can only apologise if your emails have somehow not been received.

I’m sure you will appreciate this is a complex scheme and therefore raises a lot of issues that you and many other people want reassurance on. We do our very best to keep residents and businesses updated with our plans and, as well as many individual meetings we have held with residents and businesses, we had a drop-in shop at the Westmorland Shopping Centre for 12 months, took a mobile information vehicle to all the key locations in the town, and we continue to provide up-to-date information at

However, we appreciate there is always more that could be done, and we will strive to ensure this happens as the scheme progresses. To this end, we will shortly be announcing the opening of the Kendal scheme information hub, which will be an office in the town to allow people to call in and see the latest plans and speak directly to members of the project team regarding any concerns or issues they may have.

Your questions deserve extensive explanations but this is not possible in the space available in a published letter. I therefore hope you will visit us at the hub when it is open and allow us to give you a much more detailed response, which we are more than happy to do.

Brief answers to your questions are:

- The Sainsbury’s development had a full flood-risk assessment and I can reassure you this development has no bearing on the Kendal FRMS.

- We have carried out extensive investigations to ensure there will be no increased risk to any properties downstream of the southern extremity of the scheme.

- All flood risk management schemes are designed to a standard based on them being technically feasible, environmentally sustainable and economically viable. If a flood event is bigger than the scheme was designed for, then there is always the possibility of the defences being overtopped, as was the case with Keswick and Cockermouth. However, it should be noted the existing schemes at both these locations have protected numerous properties on many occasions (such as Storms Dennis and Ciara). All flood risk management schemes reduce the risk of flooding but can never eliminate the risk. We always look at all options to reduce flood risk, including hard defences and upstream management, and, for example, we looked at 60 possible options for Kendal.

- As you say, the scheme is designed to be in three phases: phase one being the defences on the River Kent in the town plus a pumping station on Stock Beck; phase two, to construct defences in Staveley, Burneside, and Ings; and phase three, to construct upstream storage and a catchment drain on land above Sandylands. Phase one is being constructed first due to the European funding (ERDF) we have receive being time-limited. Without this funding the scheme would not be financially viable. Due to the above, it has always been our intention to construct the works in Kendal town first.

- Phase one on its own will provide an increased standard of protection to many properties and businesses that are at most risk of flooding in Kendal. But all three phases will need to be completed in order to provide a standard of protection equivalent to a one per cent chance in any one year of the defences being overtopped (sometimes referred to as a one-in-100-year flood event).

- We are spending approximately £800,000 on natural flood management (NFM) work in the upper catchments, and this funding is from a bid we made to the government for funds made available by DEFRA specifically for NFM research work, and does not form part of the scheme budget. We will also be carrying out extensive tree planting and other works to improve the local habitat, as described in my last letter (Letters, February 20, ‘Flood scheme will be the best possible’). I also explained in that letter that NFM work on its own will not resolve the flood risk problems in Kendal, and the primary solution will need engineered defences in the short term followed by a longer term catchment approach.

- The amount of carbon generated by the construction of all three phases of our scheme is changing constantly as the detailed design evolves. The latest figure we have is 8,113 tonnes, but this will be regularly updated as the scheme progresses. We are restoring peatlands in the upper Kent catchment to help offset some of the carbon.

I am concerned you feel there is a silence to the questions raised above. We have answered all these questions on a great many occasions and in many formats. However, if you feel we haven’t done this in an appropriate way, then I am certain others must feel the same. This makes me more determined to ensure we improve our communications as we move forward with the scheme.

Recent flooding events across England and Cumbria show how weather patterns are changing in response to climate change. I know that the people and businesses in Kendal who face the threat of flooding are concerned and I want to reassure those people we will be starting construction this spring.

Thank you for taking the time to send in your response to my original letter; it is much appreciated.

Stewart Mounsey

Area flood risk manager, Environment Agency