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How a flood basin the size of 310 Olympic swimming pools saved south Manchester
Around 11pm last night, Environment Agency workers opened the giant sluice gates into the storage area.
Dear Millers — we hope you’re safe and well. This week’s briefing has the latest on the weekend’s flooding, a lovely 1-bed flat for sale next to Chorlton Park and a couple of responses to our weekend read about the controversial Clean Air Zone.
On Friday night, after our piece was edited and scheduled, Andy Burnham issued a personal statement on the Clean Air Zone. He addressed claims that he is the “main architect” of the CAZ, which some are calling the “Burnham Tax”. He said the government was responsible for decisions about the scheme and said: “I have never had any formal decision-making role in relation to the CAZ.”
This week's weather 🌦
Our forecast comes from our local weatherman Martin Miles, who says: “This week will be less stormy, although we will still see unsettled and often windy weather. Wednesday and Friday will be our best days of the week.”
Tuesday 🌦 A wet start with heavy rain. Sunny spells will then develop later in the morning, but it will be windy with occasional blustery showers and 35mph gusts. Max 10°c.
Wednesday ⛅️ A lot of cloud cover is expected, and any sunny spells are likely to be hazy. Max 10°c.
Thursday 🌦 Colder weather will move in. Wintry showers will be frequent and it will be windy too. Max 5°c.
Friday ⛅️ At the moment, the end of the week should be reasonable. Despite feeling cold, there will be sunny spells and mostly dry conditions. Max 7°c.
Weekend ⛅️ The weekend is promising for a couple of decent days. Temperatures will be around average with highs around 9/10°c.
Flood basin saves south Manchester
Top line: When 430 homes in Didsbury and Northenden were issued flood alerts yesterday, south Manchester braced for the worst.
The Mersey had reached its highest level ever recorded, and water was lapping perilously close to roads and homes. According to one measuring station in Stockport, the river surpassed the high water mark of 3.97 metres, set in 2000. Last night it peaked at 4.40 metres — a new record of almost half a metre.
Our reporter Harry Shukman takes up the story of what happened next:
As the night drew in, a team of flood risk experts were gathered at a control centre where the river passes through Fletcher Moss Park. They were waiting for the right moment to activate the flood basin, which can only divert water once the river reaches a specific height.
Around 11pm, Environment Agency workers decided to open up the giant sluice gates into the storage area, which has the volumetric capacity of 310 Olympic swimming pools. Slowly, the water levels began to drop. They fell steadily during the night, and around noon today were approaching a more normal level. Council leader Bev Craig, who had been monitoring the river, stood down emergency evacuation operations in the early hours although a flood alert remains in place.
Crisis averted: Sarah Russell, councillor for Northenden, whose constituents were evacuated, told The Mill that “a major reason we didn't see flooding was due to the skills of the Environment Agency operators, who used a combination of expertise and computer modelling to manage the excess water”. She adds: “We are really grateful for their help.”
Last year, a staff member from the Environment Agency tweeted about how the Didsbury flood storage area works and how it uses golf courses, parks and a rugby pitch to keep the area safe. Here’s an annotated photo from a previous flood showing some of the storage area.
Train chaos: Northern cancelled train services on all of its North West routes this morning. “All journeys were suspended mid-morning, leaving passengers stranded at stations in Manchester, Wigan and Preston,” reports Manchester World. The company said it was starting to resume some services, and its website currently advises people not to travel today. “Customers should expect delays and cancellations,” it warns.
Fallen trees meant Metrolink saw disruption on the Bury, Rochdale, Altrincham, Ashton and Airport lines today. This morning, Transport for Greater Manchester released a statement saying:
The storm which affected the city-region overnight is now starting to ease and is expected to have cleared by lunchtime, but there may be some further disruption into the evening commuter peak as engineers and transport staff work to clear blockages to lines and get services back up and running.
Send us your flood pictures and stories by hitting reply to this edition or emailing email@example.com.
Home of the week
This lovely 1-bed flat is right next to Chorlton Park and has lots of natural light and a covered balcony. It’s on the market for £185,000.
If you want to tell us about a story or pass on some information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. We are always happy to speak to people off the record in the first instance, and we will treat your information with confidence and sensitivity. Get in touch.
Other local news in brief
Andy Burnham has called claims about his wife "disgraceful," as critics of the Clean Air Zone allege that she owns shares in a local electric vehicle charging network. Burnham denies this. More here.
A Qatari developer with properties in Manchester could avoid paying into a government fund to fix unsafe cladding thanks to the complex way it operates multiple companies. More here.
Historic England offers grants to ‘ordinary’ places like pubs and terraced houses — previous buildings that Historic England has recognised through listing include the Salford Lads Club. More here.
Rates of Covid-19 in Greater Manchester continue to fall. The region's case rate is 255.6, down 32.7%, compared to England's 445.2, down 29.3%. Rates are lowest in Bolton and highest in Trafford.
Today Boris Johnson announced that from Thursday, the legal requirement to self-isolate will end. He also said free Covid testing for the general public will end on 1 April — those who are most vulnerable and older people who are symptomatic will still get free tests.
Our things to do
🦇 Books | Tonight there’s an evening of queer gothic horror at Blackwell’s Bookshop on Oxford Road to celebrate two debut publications. Book here.
🗣 Talk | Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society is hosting a lecture, "I danced here on other peoples' dreams" by award-winning author Gary Younge on Thursday. Book here.
🎭 Workshop | On Wednesday, The Whitworth is hosting a theatre workshop run by Stepping Stones Creatives to help people find their artistic voice. Book here.
🎶 Music | Flautist Eliza Marshall has created an environmental project combining music and film called Freedom to Roam: The Rhythms of Migration. You can watch her perform at the Stoller Hall on Thursday. Book here.
🥘 Eat | Manchester Wire recently reviewed Campagna at The Creameries in Chorlton — the winter salads looked particularly appetising. Book here.
🗣 Lecture | On Wednesday, MMU’s Professor Chris Hatton will be giving his inaugural lecture “Things can’t only get better”, which will look at learning disabilities and Covid-19. Watch online.
'It all went horribly wrong for Manchester Pride'
Last year, Manchester Pride was accused of losing its way. Critics said it had strayed from its activist roots and didn’t give enough money to the charities it should be supporting. A thousand people marched through Manchester to denounce the organisation. A six-month exercise of listening and penance has resulted in a bundle of new proposals, including dropping flagship music festival Manchester Pride Live, at least for this year.
In our latest Mill podcast, we speak to leading figures in Manchester’s LGBTQ community about the crisis and whether Pride can turn it around. Plus, we discuss whether Manchester is experiencing a London-style housing crisis, and speak to historian Dr Thomas McGrath about a famous painting of mill girls in Wigan.
Even if you’ve never listened to a podcast before in your life, give ours a go. You can listen on a normal web browser or on your phone by clicking this link — you don’t need a podcast app. We put out a new episode every week, digging into the week’s local headlines and zooming in on a couple of stories we think you might want to know more about.
Our favourite reads
A few months ago, our sister newsletter The Post in Liverpool came across a group of people who are searching for their long-lost families, including a woman called Jan. “When she was 18, she started looking for her biological mum. Social services gave her the address of a family home in Stockport. It was 1980, and she turned up at the door alone. An old man in the garden next door looked at her and said ‘You’re one of the family, aren’t you.’ She was startled but said yes, I am.”
Council spends £200m on tackling climate change — Manchester Evening News
This piece from local democracy reporter Joseph Timan takes a look at Manchester council’s climate change expenditure, despite the city not decarbonising at the rate required to become carbon neutral by its 2018 deadline. “While praising the ambition of the strategy, councillors expressed frustration at the pace of progress on the plans, with one saying: ‘It feels as if we're constantly refreshing rather than actually coming up with a hard plan.’“
The Meteor spoke to Neil McInroy, chair of the Liverpool Land Commission for this piece of reporting. “To keep this promise from Andy Burnham, at the top of his agenda and prevent the idea being kicked into the long grass campaigners from over 60 organisations concerned about current development and land use in the city region, called for the GM mayor to uphold his promise, last May.”
This fascinating long read takes us inside the shady world of Madbird, the design agency that never was. One of the people to be lured in was 27-year-old Chris Doocey, a sales manager based in Manchester. “Covid had upended Chris's life. It had cost him his last job and was the reason he'd applied for this role at Madbird. The ad described a ‘human-centred digital design agency born in London, running worldwide’. It sounded good.”
Pretty little liars — Huck Magazine
Influencer Molly Mae is creative director at Manchester fast-fashion brand PrettyLittleThing, and she recently announced it was moving into the resale market, but don’t be so easily fooled. “While Hague has been heralded for attempting to ‘elevate the brand and move [it] away from throwaway, to timeless fashion,’ it’s worth remembering that PLT is no stranger to greenwashing,” writes Frances Leach.
Letters to the editor
I totally get the massive impact the charges will have on businesses. (‘Andy Burnham chokes on clean air’.) It’s only fair that their stories are heard and the issue is discussed and considered properly. We live a mile from where this protest took place. I’m regularly cleaning black diesel residue off the inside of my clinically extremely vulnerable child’s bedroom window. Something has to be done to sort the air quality out, and it needs to be done now. I don’t know what a fair solution would look like — but for us, safer air can’t come quickly enough. Kathy, Stockport
This article is flirting with false equivalence. While the comms around the CAZ could have been better, you've got to question the credibility of any business person who 'found out about it on Facebook'. Burnham is trying to solve a real problem that affects everyone in Manchester and which will not go away. How do the people with "F*$£ Burnham' hoodies propose to tackle it? Mark, Lancashire
Before you go…
Last week we sent Mill members an interview with Bolton South East’s MP Yasmin Qureshi, who was one of the first female Muslim MPs to be elected in the UK. Members also got a great piece about the rise and fall of the Salford Star, a local newspaper whose founders were branded “extremists” by Ian Stewart, the city’s former mayor. This week we have got two brilliant members-only editions lined up. Join us now to get those and support our journalism.