Castle Point prepared to take the sustainability out of sustainable development?

At the risk of being accused of scaremongering we reproduce an article on the lengths developers are prepared to go to maximise margins and the build at any costs, anywhere, attitude of the Authorities and developers.

Flooding both from the sea and surface water is an issue for Canvey Island residents. Any new large development can only worsen the situation, this cannot be denied.

danny payne                                                               pic credit Danny Payne

The Inspector at the Core Strategy examination recognised that only “some” development was required to keep Canvey regenerated.

“Some” development continues to take place on the Island, quite rightly.

What can be questioned is the sense in any large-scale development, more so now that we learn that corner cutting appears to be being suggested, due to the expense of flood mitigation measures.

At the moment development on Canvey Island requires little more than the raising of electrical sockets and the provision of a first floor toilet, to gain approval in a flood zone.

Given the failure of the drainage system during the August flooding, a closer examination of the motives of proposers of large-scale development on Canvey should be examined.

Concerns of the Environment Agency remain unexamined, as long as they express “no objection” to planning proposals. Even though they expect the local authority to have considered carefully the safety and emergency issues before taking responsibility of their decision making.

 A recent proposal for a development on Canvey Island has drawn attention to the possibility of an issue with obtaining House Insurance for new builds:

  ” We also question the viability of the occupants being able to obtain insurance for these flats! ”

These are not my words, these are the words of the Environment Agency!

Now, “sustainability” within the NPPF may have varied reasons, but surely the safeguard of home insurance falls within this remit, especially given the devastation that the damage to property flooding causes.

No doubt the local authority will look to have meetings with the EA, pointing out that Canvey Island is once again a “special case” so as to mitigate this obstacle.

An obstacle that is likely to be ignored by the CPBC Development Committee, but perhaps not by the Planning Inspectorate.

This may well provide yet another obstacle in the attempt to find the housing supply required in a Local Plan something that an Inspector will be aware of as should the seven mainland councillors as they identify sites for the housing supply.

 I will leave you to draw your own conclusions after reading the article drawn to my attention by the friends of Bowers road Benfleet:

Crucial anti-flooding measures for new houses will not now be introduced this year, after intense lobbying by volume house builders worried about the costs of the schemes.

As the Environment Agency warn that one in six UK houses is now at risk of future flood damage, the Government has announced an 18-month delay to measures requiring flood control measures in all new housing developments.

The Government is believed to have pulled the plug on the new schemes after Barratt Homes, Redrow, Bovis and other volume house builders complained the measures were ‘flawed and would raise design, cost and other problems for house builders’. In a letter to Defra minister Richard Benyon the builders also warned the incorporation of mandatory Sustainable Urban Drainages Schemes (SUDS) would ‘present a significant risk to the delivery of new housing’.

Similar attempts obliging house construction companies to design-in wetlands, reed beds, porous driveways and drainage channels to help homeowners deal with the worst of run-off flooding met with objections last year after the heavyweight Home Builders Federation complained to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) about the cost. The latest SUDS proposals have also come under fire from councils concerned about costs of their maintenance.

In a further development likely to alarm flooding campaigners, the Government indicated it means to prioritise a push for more houses over concerns for people’s homes. ‘No extra burdens on property developers which impact on the drive for growth’ would be considered according to a statement made by Defra.

Warning

Meanwhile, the Association of British Insurers warns up to 1 million of the 3 million houses proposed for the UK by 2020 could be sited on flood plains. Without rigid new planning controls the ABI warns many thousands of homes will be left uninsurable and the Association’s members may no longer be able to offer flood cover as standard on home insurance policies.

ABI’s assistant director, Justin Jacobs said, ‘The government’s ambitious housing plans are in jeopardy unless we reduce the flood risk. In the last year, thirteen major developments have been given the go-ahead despite Environment Agency advice on the flood risk.’

While insurers do want to be able to offer insurance, Mr Jacobs claimed ‘Where a local authority plans to ignore flood risk advice, the government should step in and review the proposals and be compelled to publish their decision,’ he said.

Flooding in Yorkshire and Gloucestershire during the summer of 2007 is estimated to have cost the nation £3 billion, of which £1 billion was paid by ABI-member insurance companies, according to the Association. Fifteen thousand families were left in temporary accommodation with three quarters of them being forced to wait more than 4 months before they could return to their homes.

Though SUDS will be mandatory for developments of more than one home from April 2014, for many campaigners the requirement can’t come a moment too soon.

‘We have tarmacked and paved and when we get the deluge there is nowhere for it to seep into the ground so it runs straight into the drains far too quickly,’ said Mary Dhonau, the chairwoman of the Flood Protection Association, a pressure group calling for greater action to prevent flooding.

‘In the 2007 floods most of the insurance claims were for surface water flooding, not for river flooding. Flooding is an issue for every new development, not just those on the flood plain,’ she said.

Developers last year submitted plans for close to 28,000 homes on land prone to flooding throughout the UK and the Environment Agency now estimates run-off flooding threatens somewhere between 2.8 million homes and one in six of the UK’s housing stock.

SUDS have long been advocated by ecologists and flooding experts as key to a 21st century ‘soft defences’. Instead of channeling floodwater between ever-higher walls and rushing torrents faster and harder downstream, the idea is to increase the overall absorptive capacity of housing areas through a more imaginative use of porous parking areas, grassland, reedbeds and holding ponds.
However, with negotiations over government-underwritten flood insurance currently at a standstill and flood alleviation and defence schemes suffering disproportionate cuts, criticism of the Government’s apparent abandonment of compulsory SUDS is likely to be sharp.

As trends towards wetter summers as well as winters look increasingly definite, some of the first changes could well be hefty rises in insurance premiums. ‘The average cost of settling a claim for flooding has now jumped to between £70,000 and £200,000 per household,’ says Richard Mason of price comparison website Moneysupermarket.com.

‘This amount is unsustainable for the insurance industry to bear in the long term unless insurance premiums rise.’

Steve James, News Editor, The Yorkshire Times.

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