Council begins ‘full investigation’ into storm flooding in West Kirby

Wirral Council will begin a full investigation this week of its £20m sea wall after a road and business flooded in recent stormy weather.

On April 9, water from waves crashing against the West Kirby sea wall spilled over onto South Parade during Storm Kathleen. Staff at Tanskey’s Bistro were rescued by the RNLI and the West Kirby Sailing Club had to rush to save their boats.

The water moved cars, caused some damage to the café and left water in the road after the tide dropped but it’s understood there have been no reports of flooding in residential properties.

The flooding has led to heavy criticism on social media of Wirral Council, which part-funded the sea wall project alongside the Environment Agency but many of those living on the seafront argued the wall helped protect their properties by stopping waves crashing into their gardens and homes.

Despite this,  there have been calls too for “a full and frank investigation” as well as compensation for those affected.

On social media, the bosses of Tanskey’s said the cafe now fully reopened after an “emotional” week.

In a post, they said, “We have been overwhelmed by the responses of Wirral residents regarding the floods and the wall and are touched by the community spirit,” adding, “Every message has spurred us on in our efforts to tackle this mess.”

At an environment committee meeting on 15 April, the chair of Wirral Council’s environment committee, Cllr Liz Grey, confirmed a review of the impact of the storm was due to start this week.

Cllr Grey told the LDRS the council is required to submit a report following any flooding incident and it was not an indication the wall had failed, adding, “I would be surprised that the investigation found there was anything wrong with the wall.”

However, councillors have demanded “actions that will come forward to improve the situation next time”.

Last week, Conservative Cllr Andrew Gardner said, “There are huge questions to be asked about what happened yesterday. It’s completely unacceptable that a £20m infrastructure scheme to stop flooding apparently seemed to create flooding.”

Following a similar storm event in December 2013, a report showed four businesses and eight homes were flooded with “significant damage” to council property in the area and garden walls knocked down. Homes on Lingdale Road “experienced significant damage to their defences and erosion of a garden to within 10m of the property.”

Asking for an update on the investigation into the effectiveness of the sea defence on 15 April, Cllr Allan Brame pointed out the council had previously said water would drain using existing drainage and “any water or spray overtopping the wall will have had its energy dissipated and will no longer travel as waves across the road and property.”

Cllr Grey said the wall was “designed to take the energy out of the waves, not designed to prevent all flooding. If only all elected members knew that,” adding, “The highway gullies appeared to work effectively once the tide dropped. The draining of the overtopped water was accelerated when the sliding gates were opened with the area clear of water within two hours after high tide.

“However there was some standing water due to some gulleys being blocked due to the amount of sand washing over but these were cleaned approximately three hours after high tide

“Following the storm event on 9 April, the council will conduct a full review of the storm dimensions and the performance of the sea defence system. The review will be undertaken jointly with the Environment Agency and the review starts this week so we’ll get a full investigation.”

Lead image: A flooded South Parade in West Kirby on 9 April. Credit: Ed Barnes

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