PRIME Minister Boris Johnson has been urged to intervene over controversial plans to protect hundreds of homes and businesses in Kendal from flooding.

Members of the Kendal Conservatives group have written to Mr Johnson, environment secretary George Eustace and floods minister Rebecca Pow asking them to rule the £72m flood defence scheme for the rivers Kent and Mint cannot go ahead until a ‘viable alternative’ has been considered.

They cite fears over the environmental, economy and aesthetic impacts of the current scheme.

And a petition with 6,300 signatures, launched by campaign group Save The Heart of Kendal, is set to be delivered to Downing Street today.

However, the Environment Agency, flood action groups and the Westmorland and Lonsdale MP have hit back - branding the letter a ‘game-playing’ stunt made by political ‘wannabes’.

The project would see approximately 6km of linear flood defences, with works along the rivers Kent and Mint through Kendal, including new and raised flood walls, new and raised flood embankments and ground raising.

Planning permission for Phase One of the scheme was granted in 2019 and construction work is due to begin in the early autumn.

“We understand people are worried about future flooding. We want flood defences for Kendal but not the ones which are proposed in phase one,” said Luke Gudgeon, councillor candidate for Kendal East.

He raised concerns over 'shipping thousands of tons of concrete across the country to build the walls', which he said would 'dramatically change the landscape of the town and river corridor.'

He also cited the loss of hundreds of riverside trees and blossom trees and said the scheme would cause 'disruption and damage to the eco-systems around the river', including otters and bats.

Mr Gudgeon argued a three-year long construction project would put off tourists and shoppers heading to Kendal.

“We have a high street that has been struggling and has been hit by the lockdown," he said.

"On top of that will come these signs and the town will not be as attractive as it was. This will cost local people jobs.”

Mr Gudgeon said the EA scheme only protected against the River Kent bursting its banks. But many of the homes and businesses that flooded during Storm Desmond did so because the water table rose and water came up through the drains or ran off the hillsides, he said.

Instead, Kendal Conservatives are calling for upstream natural flood management installations.

A spokesperson from the Save the Heart of Kendal campaign group, which is opposed to the plans, said: “Save the Heart of Kendal stand up to protect the River Kent in Cumbria.

“We are challenging plans to cut down the majority of Kendal’s riverside trees, to build concrete walls and embankments over 6km long through our ancient and cherished town and riverside and to build two dams (huge concrete flow control structures) in our river.

“The River Kent is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area for Conservation because of the amazing diversity of wildlife it supports. Because of this, the Kent currently has the highest level of protection in Europe.

“It is unbelievable that the EA plans can ride roughshod over the river’s designation with their damaging plans for heavy engineering. That this is even being considered in this ecosystem is deplorable.

“We call for a stop to the current plans. We call for a natural approach across the whole catchment before the use of concrete and hard engineering. Dealing with water when it hits the river is already too late.”

Ian Kell, secretary of Benson and Sandes Flood Action Group, who supports the plans, said: “I think I can speak on behalf of all the other flood actions groups in saying that we’re astonished these wannabe councillors have taken it upon themselves to question the Environment Agency scheme, which has passed every level of economic, political and democratic scrutiny and has been supported by the local Conservative leader James Airey at every stage.

“When the scheme passed South Lakeland District Council planning, the Conservative councillors on the planning committee voted unanimously in favour - not just once, but twice.”

And the Environment Agency accused campaign groups opposed to the town’s flood defence scheme of spreading ‘misinformation’.

Stewart Mounsey, EA's flood risk manager for Cumbria, said: “The Environment Agency are making good progress with the £76m Kendal Flood Risk Management Scheme, with planning permission already gained, construction will start in autumn this year to better protect 1480 properties and 1151 businesses from flooding as well as delivering many benefits for the environment and the economy.

“The information being presented by campaign groups who are opposing the Kendal scheme contains factual errors.

“We appreciate this misinformation is causing concern for Kendal flood victims who will benefit from the scheme and would like to point the public to the factually correct information available on

“During the coronavirus pandemic our staff our following the current government guidelines and have implemented social distancing.”

Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron accused the Kendal Conservatives of exploiting the Coronavirus pandemic and ‘playing with people’s lives’.

He said: “It really is so disappointing to see Conservative activists exploit a national crisis to seek to delay and obstruct plans which would protect hundreds of local businesses and homes.

“Let’s not forget that the flood defence scheme is a Government-backed scheme which was approved by all councillors at the planning meeting including Conservative councillors.

“In the 15 years I have served as our MP the biggest devastation our community has suffered is this COVID-19 crisis. The second biggest devastation came from the floods of 2015. The idea that we should seek to protect our community from one of these threats but not bother about the other is utterly reckless.

“Kendal Conservatives are playing political games with real people’s lives.

“If their requests are accepted and the flood scheme is halted, I hope they are prepared to take responsibility for the consequences.”