FENLAND: Council gets its knuckles rapped over flood risk assessment on new housing estate
EXCLUSIVE By JOHN ELWORTHY THE Environment Agency has accused Fenland District Council of agreeing to13 homes against their advice and in contravention of Government guidelines. The agency says they agreed to the homes at Gorefield in principle but requi
By JOHN ELWORTHY
THE Environment Agency has accused Fenland District Council of agreeing to13 homes against their advice and in contravention of Government guidelines.
The agency says they agreed to the homes at Gorefield in principle but required finished floor levels be raised 300 mm above ground level.
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"Although we requested the local planning authority to defer its decision until such time as revised ground floor levels were submitted (they) granted consent against our advice," says the agency.
Fenland Council says it will now address the flood risk issues "and we will liaise with the Environment Agency".
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Their spokesman added: "The council, as local planning authority, will always have due regard to the Environment Agency's advice to minimise flood risk concerns in the interests of the environment and to protect the local community."
A flood risk assessment prepared for the developers argued that the probability of the site flooding with water from the River Nene tidal river system "is less than 0.5 per cent because of the standards of the existing flood defences".
The Environment Agency has included Fenland District Council among a list of 16 local authorities it says has allowed developments to go ahead despite concerns over flood risks.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) warned this week that new properties which get planning permission without Environment Agency approval would be harder and more expensive to insure.
Nick Starling, the ABI's director of general insurance and health, said: "Despite tougher planning controls, it is worrying that during 2007 and 2008 16 developments - which included 240 homes - were given planning permission despite the Environment Agency advising against them because of the flood risk.
"Without proper measures to reduce flood risk, these properties will be uninsurable, unsellable and uninhabitable."
The Environment Agency has listed at least 50 instances during 2007/8 when they claim Fenland Council approved developments contrary to their advice or when they received inadequate flood risk assessments.
Paul Leinster, chief executive of the Environment Agency, said: "There are already millions of people at risk from flooding and this number is set to rise in future due to the impacts of climate change."
An investigation by the Wisbech Standard has revealed planning permission for the homes at High Road, Gorefield, by Dene Homes Ltd was approved in the summer of 2007.
The Environment Agency accepted the principle of the development but called for a deferment to amend the floor levels.
However council documents show that although the scheme was deferred for a month- to consider access and litter bins- there is no evidence that amendments were made to a 16 page flood risk assessment lodged four months earlier.
That flood risk assessment, prepared for the developers, argued that although being built in a flood plain, the risks were "considered to be small".
They identified four potential sources of flooding and concluded that it was "highly unlikely" the Wisbech to Sutton Bridge tidal defences would be breached. They recommended proposed floor levels be a minimum of 150mm above ground level.
The Environment Agency remains unhappy and claims the Gorefield development - yet to be built- was determined without reference to the Government office as required under the Flooding Direction 2007".