The first phase of the mutli-million pound Kendal flood defence plan has been give the go ahead.

The scheme – which could cost between £35-£40 million was approved unanimously by South Lakeland District Council's (SLDC) planning committee on Thursday after a meeting at Kendal Town Hall.

The project, the first part of a three-stage plan to help protect the town and neighbouring communities, was drawn up by the Environment Agency after it was agreed action was needed to address flood problems following the devastation of Storm Desmond in 2015.

The meeting opened with a presentation detailing the scheme by the SLDC planning department and then a total of 23 people, including several members of the public, addressed the meeting.

Some expressed their impassioned support for the plan, including Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron, while others, including representatives of locally based charity The Friends of the Lake District, were equally strident in their opposition to the proposals, which envisage around four miles of walls and embankments by the River Kent in the town and a pumping station at Stock Beck.

After a brief debate, councillors unanimously backed the plan, though it was passed subject to the result of a request from the six organisations who have formally written to the appropriate Government department requesting that the plan be 'called out' and reviewed by the Secretary of State.

Mr Farron welcomed the decision: “This news will come as a great relief for all those in Kendal, Burneside and Staveley whose homes and businesses have been devastated by recent flooding.

“I know that some residents have had concerns about certain aspects of the plans so it’s important that we continue to hold the Environment Agency account to deliver the best possible scheme for our community.

“There have been five formal requests that the Government call in this decision which could still halt these plans, and therefore I will be writing to the Secretary of State to urge him to reject these requests.

“Having waited more than three years to even get to the planning stage, and having been through many iterations during the consultation, those who still live with the trauma of flood events over the past ten years should not be made to wait any longer to get these flood defences in place.”

Stewart Mounsey, Environment Agency flood and coastal risk manager for Cumbria, echoed the sentiment.

“It is wonderful news that councillors on South Lakeland District Council planning committee have given their support to phase one of the Kendal flood risk management scheme, and we await the outcome of the Secretary of State’s decision," he said. 

However, Kate Willshaw, a leading opponent of the plan who led the campaign to save the hundreds of trees threatened by the construction of the flood walls, said she was dismayed at the outcome.

"We are very disappointed though we feel we have done all we can," she said.

Approval was granted subject to confirmation that the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government does not wish to call in the application for his own determination.

SLDC will not issue any planning permission until the Secretary of State has had an opportunity to consider fully the issues that have been raised in the requests.

The overall, the plan falls into three phases, with the second and third phases being concerned with upstream flood management.

Phase 1 – linear defences in the town including a pumping station at the outflow from Stock Beck. The phase details four miles of flood walls along the River Kent, made from glass panels at scenic locations or traditional-look slate walls or moulded concrete in less sensitive places.

Phase 2 – improved linear defences for Burneside, Staveley and Ings.

Phase 3 – upstream storage for the River Kent and flow diversion for Stock Beck in higher flows.