The exposure, by cllr Neville Watson, of Castle Point Council’s attitude on flood risk matters regarding housing development was long overdue.
That developers, planners and the mainland members of the development committee are prepared to agree to a proposal that offers to house disabled residents in ground floor accommodation in a flood risk zone hints at a possible disregard for the safety of Canvey’s community.
All in the purpose of locating as many dwellings as possible away from the politically sensitive Mainland towns.
The Echo article exposed the lack of responsibility taken by officials.
By considering the wrong breach map the Development Committee were under the impression that, the possibly vulnerable, future residents would have the luxury of 8 – 12 hours worse case warning of a breach in the sea-defences. The correct breach map that cllr Watson informed the Development Committee members of, shows that in a worse case scenario flood water would reach the site in under one hour!
It doesn’t matter that the Officers recommendation would remain unaltered if they had accepted cllr Watsons information, what mattered was that the Development Committee would have been better informed!
The Echo article explained that, neither the flood risk assessor, nor the Council Officers were at fault for the incorrect breach map being employed.
The blame was transferred to the Environment Agency for accepting the incorrect document.
That does not excuse the Council Case Officer who refutted the information cllr Watson put to the Development Committee.
More importantly neither does it excuse the two senior Officers in attendance at the meeting to advise the Chairman.
A simple reference to the Castle Point Flood Risk Assessment Mapping would have allowed a correction during the meeting and before a vote was held, thereby allowing the Committee members to provide an informed judgment whether they thought flood risk is a material consideration on Canvey Island planning matters.
The information sent to the Environment Agency was compiled by a Canvey based company, local professional Borough Officers had access to all of this information and other submissions whilst the proposal was being filed with the Planning Department.
For three organisations to miss this error must give Canvey Island residents absolutely no confidence in the system or the diligence observed.
There has been a clear rush to approve any housing proposal of whatever size for Canvey Island since the requirement for housing has become apparent at the breakdown of the Core Strategy.
That the control of power by the mainland Councillors relies on the prevention of development in Benfleet, Hadleigh and Thundersley became apparent at the recent County elections.
The risk to the potential loss of Canvey Green Belt is made apparent by this relaxing of local regard to flood risk.
It is for our own Development Committee to commit to whether Canvey residents are made more or less safe by the increased development on the Island.
Should the unthinkable happen, can the rescue organisations cope? Are the refuge areas suitable and available for the size of community residing on Canvey?
Does the Government new housing bonuses justify the increase in numbers?
The reason behind the rejection of flood risk matters as a reason for refusal by the Officers and Majority controlling party at Borough level is “the continued development of Canvey Island is necessary to sustain the local community and prevent the social and economic blight of the settlement.”
Strange that the lack of development on the Mainland has not been considered to cause social and economic blight in Benfleet, Hadleigh and Thundersley.