Castle Point housing development, Flood Risk, Climate Change and site selection.

Whilst Canvey Island is benefited by “the best sea defence in the UK,” nature moves on. The Committee on Climate Change has issued a further warning against complacency over sea level rise and protection against the effects.

Whether climate change is something that can be controlled by human adjustments is irrelevant. The facts are sea levels are rising.

Locally Castle Point Council were required to produce a Strategic Flood Risk Assessment (SFRA)  in support of the rejected Core Strategy.

This document researched by experts Scott Wilson, and despite revision by Castle Point Borough Council (CPBC), with the Env Agency’s consent, illustrates clear concerns.

The fact that more recent flooding is now demanding vast sums from us, via the Government, to be spent across the UK in mitigation measures, will inevitably result in any required long term improvements to Canvey sea defences being delayed.

The Castle Point Flood Risk Assessment gives clear advice that future planned development for Canvey Island should be regarded with caution.

Extracts include:

“The results from the increased scope Level 2 SFRA have confirmed that the southern part of Castle Point, namely Canvey Island and the Hadleigh Marshes area are at significant risk of tidal flooding.”

“In the light of this, it is recommended that a survey of the flood defence crest heights around Canvey Island is undertaken in order to refine the assessment of defences that are overtopped and areas that are at real risk of flooding.”

“For an SFRA to serve as a practical planning tool now and in the future, it will be necessary to undertake a periodic update and maintenance exercise. This section clarifies what specific actions are recommended to ensure correct maintenance and updating of the SFRA.”

“Frequency of Updates: It is recommended that the SFRA is maintained on an annual basis. Should any changes be necessary, the SFRA should be updated and re-issued.”

Four years have passed and as far as we are aware the recommended updates have not been undertaken. The survey of the flood defence crest heights, likewise requires undertaking.*

Whether this illustrates CPBC giving flood risk the priority it deserves may be open to debate.

In the light of the Castle Point Local Plan, shortly expected to receive some revision, and the Borough’s housing distribution requiring the consideration of local constraints, it appears timely to suggest our councillors re-read the 2010 Flood Risk Assessment and bear in mind the most recent climate change considerations. This prior to them selecting what should be the most sustainable and appropriate sites for housing development.

In the report by Roger Harrabin, below, an interesting link is included to a report following the Pitt Review on Floods. Click on it and consider whether our local authority have issued residents with the best advice available, or indeed adequate advice at all!

R.Harrabin, BBC Environment Analyst writes:

“England is still not doing enough to tackle the risks from climate change, government advisers say.

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) says three-quarters of existing flood defences are inadequately maintained because of a cash shortage.

Rules to avoid floods affecting new developments have also been delayed.

The government says it has offered an extra £270m to repair storm-damaged defences and is committed to adapting infrastructure to extreme weather.

But the CCC says that at current rates of investment in flood defences, flood risks for people in England will increase.

The chair of its adaptation sub-committee, Lord Krebs, told BBC News: “The £270m announced by government is a one-off payment to repair damage – not to invest in the future.

“The Environment Agency shows unless that increased investment is sustained until the 2020s, the risk of flood damage will actually increase.

“If you don’t maintain defences properly you will just stack up problems. We are calling on the government to be transparent and explain the rationale behind their policy.”

Lord Krebs’s report does offer praise in some quarters. It says the often-criticised power firms have set an example by increasing resilience to the sort of heavy storms likely if, as expected, the climate warms further. Railways are improving their preparedness in some areas, too, it says.

But it urges that a comprehensive approach should also be adopted for water companies, major roads, ports, airports, and telecommunications.

The report admits that accurately foretelling the UK’s future weather is impossible, but it stresses the need to be resilient to extremes of all kinds.

It maintains that the threat from heatwaves has been too little discussed. It says homes and public buildings are still being constructed for the past climate instead of the future climate, and warns that premature deaths from overheating could triple to 7,000 per year by the 2050s as temperatures rise and the population ages.

The CCC estimates that a fifth of homes are already at risk of overheating, even in a cool summer, and mentions forthcoming research from Cambridge University which concludes that 90% of hospital wards are already prone to overheat.

Lord Krebs said: “There has been a lot of emphasis on energy saving, rightly so, but not enough on the risk of overheating in homes, hospitals and care homes.

“We’re saying: don’t wait and rely on air-con. Install shutters or blinds or tinted windows – or external insulation. And we think new-build properties need new building standards to prevent overheating.”

The report calls on local councils to publish statutory flood risk management plans and take any actions agreed. A minority of councils, it says, are so strapped for cash that they have diverted flood investments into other spending priorities.

It complains that government has also failed to introduce new rules for developments to be self-draining, rather than plugging into the already-stressed sewer network (as recommended in the Pitt Review on flooding).

The committee members also complain that intensive farming is still being supported in areas where the ground needs natural vegetation to soak up rainfall.

A shortage of funds in the Environment Agency also means that small developments on flood plains cannot be scrutinised for their impact on flooding.

“There may be reasons for building on flood plains,” Lord Krebs said. “But there could be up to 12,000 homes going on flood plains with no advice – and that’s just stacking up problems again as sea levels rise and extreme weather events are expected.”

A government spokesman said: “We are spending £3.2bn over the course of this Parliament on flood management and protection from coastal erosion.

“We are committed to addressing the risks from climate change – by increasing awareness and making far-sighted decisions we can address these risks, save money and safeguard our homes and communities for the future.”

Maria Eagle MP, Labour’s shadow environment secretary, said: “The government’s failure to get to grips with the increasing impact of climate change threatens our national security.

“Of course tough decisions have had to be made on spending to reduce the deficit, including within Defra, but we need to end short-termism to ensure we are not storing up problems.””

* Happy to retract and correct this comment should we stand corrected.


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