The Board considered a report which sought authority to enter into a contract with the Stobart Group in respect of the future flood risk management of Marsh Brook.
The Board was advised that the Council had been working in partnership with the Stobart Group since 2007 in order to bring forward development of 200 acres of brownfield land within Stobart’s ownership. The development of this land was an integral part of the 3MG Masterplan and the aspiration to create up to 5000 new jobs at 3MG.
The Board was further advised that site development, comprising of a 528,000 sq ft distribution warehouse had been undertaken during 2009. Site preparation works had included the improvement of Marsh Brook, the realignment of the channel and the construction of a new outfall culvert to the River Mersey. The existing culvert, which was sited on land occupied by the Trans Pennine Trail and owned by the Council, had become blocked and as riparian owner, the Council had been responsible for its maintenance. However, to enable the Development to proceed, the culvert construction work had been planned to be undertaken and paid for by the Stobart Group.
It was reported that during the infrastructure design stage, the Stobart Group and their Consultants had liaised on their proposals to improve Marsh Brook with the Environment Agency (EA), who were the Regulatory Authority for such matters. However, due to the demanding time constraints in delivering the development, work had commenced prior to receiving formal Land Drainage Act Consent from the EA. Furthermore, unforeseen issues and difficult site conditions during construction necessitated amendments to the proposals that were originally submitted to the EA.
Furthermore, it was reported that In order to keep to the development programme, the Marsh Brook improvement works had been completed without EA Consent. These works subsequently proved to be not acceptable to the EA in terms of obstructing flow and maintaining a natural gradient along the Brook.
As a consequence in March 2010 the EA served notice on Westlink Holdings (the registered land owners who were a subsidiary of the Stobart Group) to rectify the un-consented works. Unfortunately, matters have not been resolved and there was an ongoing legal dispute between the two parties.
In addition, it was reported that the Council had liaised with both parties, who were seeking to reach agreement, in an attempt to find an acceptable and amicable solution. The EA had indicated that they would be prepared to accept the current arrangement of Marsh Brook and would not proceed with their prosecution if an approved maintenance plan for Marsh Brook was put in place for a period of 30 years and the Council agreed to underwrite the flood management responsibility, which it would have a statutory obligation for from April 2012. Therefore, it was reported that the EA had agreed to cease the legal challenge.
It was reported that the Council guarantee would only be activated following default by Westlink and the Stobart Group, or their successors in title in respect of the flood risk management aspect of Marsh Brook. This agreement would be for 30 years and the Council would be paid in advance the estimated maintenance costs of £164,000. This money would be held by the Council on a reducing scale for the 30 years and a proportion of it would be refunded annually to the Stobart Group for every year the Council had not had to intervene and undertake the maintenance.
In conclusion, it was reported
that it was imperative that the next phase of
RESOLVED: That Authority be given to the Operational Director for Legal & Democratic Services to enter into a legally binding contract with the Stobart Group in respect of future flood risk management of Marsh Brook and other interested parties.