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Boxing Day 2015 is a day that still gives people from Prestolee sleepless nights.

The River Irwell, which flows through the village, burst its banks during Storm Eva and caused severe, devastating flooding.

Riverside Drive was the worst street affected, with 57 homes reporting some level of flood damage.

Fast forward four and a bit years later, on Sunday February 9, and the residents of Riverside Drive had to relive the nightmare.

Storm Ciara caused chaos all around Greater Manchester and torrential rain caused the Irwell to once again come flooding into people's homes.

In 2015, more than £60,000 worth of damage was done to Denise Howarth's home, which is situated as close to the river as you could imagine.

The interior of Denise Howarth's home on Riverside Drive, Prestolee, after Storm Ciara flooded it (Image: Tom Molloy)

The mother of three's house has now flooded for a second time, and she has had to move in to a hotel, with her children and pet dog in tow.

"It's awful," she said. "Just absolutely soul-destroying. I'm a wreck.

"We've lost the settee and the floorboards.

"My son's bedroom is downstairs so he's lost all his furniture, his bed, and all his electricals.

"The kitchen is less than four years old and that's going to have to be ripped out again.

"I actually had my house for sale and obviously that's had to come off the market."

'The kitchen is less than four years old - it's going to have to be ripped out again' (Image: Denise Howarth)

In the aftermath of the 2015 floods, the Environment Agency started to look at the viability of flood defences in the area.

But they still haven't come to fruition.

Local politicians think funding is the issue. But in a statement the Environment Agency said schemes could take 'years of planning', while the government confirmed the Riverside Drive scheme was still ongoing.

Farnworth and Kearsley First councillor Julie Pattison grew up in the area and has seen first-hand the devastating effect that flooding has had.

She believes that the government need to 'stick their hand in their pocket' to fund proper flood defences.

"I'm really disappointed and upset for the residents," she added.

"They're trapped. They can't sell their properties because no one in their right mind would buy a house in a flood-risk area. They're stuck in a nightmare that they can't get out of.

"They have no assistance from central government and Bolton Council can only do so much because they're tied by central government policy."

A view of the River Irwell from Riverside Drive (Image: Tom Molloy)

Residents of Riverside Drive have launched their own campaign fund and so far, more than £1,000 of their £10,000 target has been raised.

The money would be used to build temporary flood defences but Bolton South East MP Yasmin Qureshi believes that a more permanent solution needs to be found, and one that does not require residents to put their hands in their pockets.

The Labour MP has written to Rebecca Pow, the Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), to ask for the £4 million it would apparently cost to build flood walls on both sides of the river.

Bolton South East MP, Yasmin Qureshi (Image: Copyright Unknown)

Ms Qureshi told the MEN: "I've been meeting with residents, I've written a long and detailed letter to the Environment Minister, I've met the Environment Agency at least twice in the last few months and I'll be handing a petition in to Downing Street about it.

"The Environment Agency have done the plan and they know exactly what needs to be done but they're waiting for the funding.

"The Conservative Government, that were already in power in 2015, have done nothing for these people at all.

"I've asked Rebecca (Pow) to come down to Riverside Drive and I've tried to arrange a meeting with her but so far my letter has not even been acknowledged."

Over the weekend, the community were on edge as flood alerts were issued in the area again.

A dedicated helpline for residents of Riverside Drive has also been set up by Bolton Council, who had a refuge centre in place in the immediate aftermath of the floods.

Asked why it was taking so long to get defences in place, a spokesman for the Environment Agency said: “Flood schemes are often large and complex and require extensive modelling and consultation with local communities, meaning some schemes can take years of planning to ensure that they are as effective as possible."

In the mean time, the Environment Agency said they are supporting the area and that operational teams regularly remove debris and blockages.

A spokesman added: “Every home flooded is a tragedy for that family and our heartfelt sympathy goes out to all those who have been flooded and continue to feel the impacts of Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis.

“We will continue to work alongside the Prestolee and Stoneclough communities to explore the best options for them going forward and ensure they are as protected as they possibly can be."

Meanwhile Defra, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has confirmed that the plans for a flood defence scheme for Riverside Drive are ongoing, and have been since 2015, responding to local MP Yasmin Qureshi's concerns.

They said that defences are built 'to last for many decades, taking into account the additional risks posed by climate change', saying 27 flood risk management schemes were put in place between 2015 and 2018, and that the next major schemes to be completed will be River Roch at Rochdale & Littleborough and the River Irwell at Redvales and Redvales near Bury.

A spokesman added: “The Government is investing £2.6 billion to better protect the country from flooding. This is funding over 1,000 flood defence schemes, which will better protect 300,000 homes by 2021.

"The Government’s manifesto also committed an additional £4 billion for flood defences over the next five years.

“We always prioritise investment in the areas where we can provide the greatest benefit to people and property at risk of flooding and coastal erosion.”

If you would like to help the residents of Prestolee set up temporary flood defences, you can donate to the Riverside Drive campaign fund.


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