Canvey Island Residents left Bamboozled by Flood Protection Funding Maze!

The flooding of Canvey Island during the summers of 2013 and 2014 and the ongoing concerns of a repeat event have been the subject of recent local news reports and social media posts.

A recent visit was carried out by the Government under Secretary of State for the Environment, Thérèse Coffey MP to meet a delegation of CPBC councillors and officers and representatives of the multi agency partnership to view the work carried out so far in response to the 2014 flooding.

Press reports suggested that time was spent observing the achievements rather than viewing areas of the Island’s drainage scheme that remained to be upgraded.

For instance, Essex Highways have accounted for a promised routine improvement of Canvey’s road gully maintenance, whereas in fact certain roads gullies on the Island have not received any cleansing for a number of years! And yet apparently huge sums of central funding has been claimed by ECC, whilst routine work is neglected.

Essex Highways claim, “that (they) have shown its commitment by investing more than £1 million of additional funding to help tackle localised problems such as blocked gullies”, appears to have gone unchallenged by cpbc representatives, whilst they should be fully aware that regular routine maintenance is not carried out, except perhaps in those areas that were previously reported flooded.

The implication in this case being, prevention is not better than cure!

It cannot be denied that keeping the profile high on the amount of work needed to upgrade Canvey’s drainage system is a very good thing, but the release of central funding must be used on tangible works.

Canvey residents, whose properties suffered from the flooding during 2014 have been urged to make a claim for a grant towards installing Flood Prevention measures.

This encouragement to claim by council officials, appears to indicate a concession that future flood events may well occur, despite the work carried out so far, or that the maintenance programme and upgrading of the drainage system, reliant on the £24,000,000 grant from Government, may well not be forthcoming.

However, the ease of residents seeking access to funding for the installation of flood prevention measures appears not so easy to locate, despite the encouragement from local representatives.

A visit to our local authority’s website seeking residents funding reveals only;

Castle Point Council

“Council Tax Discount for properties affected by flooding on 20th July 2014. Deadline Extended to 30.11.2014”

Using a little initiative a search for and read of the famous 6 Point Plan reveals a lead;

“Following detailed investigations, the group envisages this scheme benefiting around 15,000 high risk properties – or around 40,000 residents – on the Island. It is estimated that these measures will require an additional £500,000 of allocated funding to support the PLP package, which was introduced in September of this year. This scheme will continue to be run and managed by Essex County Council in their role as Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA).”

The impliction being all properties on Canvey are subject to some level of surface water flood risk.

This led us to then log onto the ECC website where upon, using a couple of search words the following was discovered, an application area for qualifying residents of the whole  of Essex, not just Canvey Island, to claim for flood prevention measures. Disappointingly the situation is not as rosy as some, having suffered flooding, may have wished;

Essex County Council

“Please note: Due to the high number of applications, we’re currently unable to confirm if your application will be successful.

We will notify you as soon as the status of your application changes.”

It is a concern that an element of transparency regarding whether some of this may be old or new money being granted and whether grants are being used in central budgets, as we know of the multi agency partnership Essex Highways for one, are over stating their commitment!

The Castle Point Conservatives post on social media from the MPs and delegates meeting reads;

Thérèse Coffey MP, the Parliamentary under Secretary of State for the Environment, visited Castle Point at the request of local MP Rebecca Harris. The Minister was invited to see the joint work that Essex County Council, Anglian Water, the Environment Agency and Castle Point Borough Council have undertaken to reduce the risk of future flooding and hear what progress has been made on the Six Point Plan Proposal.

Canvey Island was especially badly flooded in the summers of 2013 and 2014 and in the aftermath of the flooding a Multi-Agency Partnership (MAP) was formed between Essex County Council, Anglian Water, The Environment Agency and Castle Point Borough Council to prevent future flooding. The MAP created a 6 Point Plan setting out actions that the agencies could undertake to increase resilience to surface water flooding. The Plan includes: property level flood protection; dredging Canvey Lake; Increasing capacity of the drainage infrastructure by building an Integrated Urban Drainage Model for Canvey; create the Canvey Resilient Communities Programme; development of innovative flood management technologies and investment in green surface water storage.

During the visit the Environment Agency’s Eastern Region Deputy Director, Charles Beardall, and Anglian Water’s Head of Flood Risk Management, Jonathan Glerum, explained to the Minister the work done so far on the Integrated Urban Drainage model and the significant investment made into the various pumping stations around the Island and on the Benfleet Creek Barrier.

The Minister also visited Canvey Lake where Castle Point Borough Council’s CEO, David Marchant, and Essex County Council’s Head of Environment and Flood Management, John Meehan, updated the Minister on the progress made on the 6 Point Plan to date. They also touched on future challenges facing the MAP.

Following the visit, Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey MP said “Protecting people from flooding is an absolute priority, which is why we are spending more than £1 million to refurbish floodgates and on work investigating new local defences on Canvey Island.

“I was delighted to see first-hand what’s being done on the ground to better protect the community and will continue to follow the work with interest.”

Commenting, Castle Point MP Rebecca Harris said “I would like to thank the Minister for taking the time out of her busy schedule to visit Castle Point. We have made real progress to ensure that residents don’t suffer the terrible flooding of 2014 again and I am pleased that the Minister had the chance to see the progress first hand. There is still however more to do and I will be making sure that the County Council, Borough Council, Anglian Water and Environment Agency continue to work well together.

Cllr Ian Grundy, Essex County Council Cabinet Member for Highways, said “Essex County Council is proud to be part of the Multi-Agency Task Group which works to reduce the flood risk in Canvey. Friday’s visit from MP Thérèse Coffey offered a welcome opportunity to increase awareness of the key challenges we all face and how we are working collaboratively to find solutions.

“Since the task group was formed in 2014/15, Essex Highways has shown its commitment by investing more than £1 million of additional funding to help tackle localised problems such as blocked gullies and defective pipework in Canvey. We are also investing a further £500,000 over the next two years to address broader drainage issues. Our colleagues in Flood Management have invested £600,000 and will have protected 100 properties as part of their Property Protection scheme and have done numerous floods studies to target our future investments

“Essex Highways and the Flood Management team pride themselves on being innovative in their approach to deliver more, for less, for the taxpayer. We will continue to be a keen contributor to the work of the Multi-Agency Task Group, with a focus on delivering greener, more sustainable solutions to help solve these issues.” “

Jonathan Glerum, Anglian Water’s Head of Flood Risk Management, said “We were delighted to welcome the Minister to Canvey and show her the great partnership work that has been delivered. The approach to multi-agency working that has been developed on Canvey is a game changer and has delivered significant investment in flood mitigation on the island.”

“Anglian Water has invested over £2million on improvements to our drainage network on the Island and is committed to continued working with partners, and Government, as we look to develop and deliver innovation solutions to flood risk management for Canvey.”

Environment Agency’s Eastern Region Deputy Director, Charles Beardall, said “The day was a great opportunity to highlight the scale of the Environment Agency’s investment on Canvey, from our ongoing maintenance work to significant improvements to the protection of properties from main river flooding. It also gave us a chance to showcase our work with partner organisations as they look at future options to reduce surface water flood risk.”

Castle Point Borough CEO, David Marchant, said “All of the agencies involved were able to demonstrate to the Minister how much progress they have made since the disastrous flooding of 2013/14. Working together we have invested or plan to invest nearly £6m in accordance with the Six Point Plan to ensure the existing network operates as effectively as possible. However there is still more to do but the unique nature of the drainage system means that innovation in design is necessary particularly when the essential balance between the environment and critical drainage infrastructure on Canvey Lake has to be maintained.”

Canvey Councillor Ray Howard MBE, Castle Point Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Waste and Flooding, said ‘It was very encouraging to have a Minister of the Crown visit Canvey Island. The Minister showed a great interest in our previous flooding problems and assured us that her department would do all they could to assist in future flooding matters’.

One thing appears absolutely clear is that despite some claims to the contrary, the possibility of a repeat of the devastating events is now accepted by many agency representatives!

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A Little Government Help with assessing Castle Point’s Annual Housing Needs – as if we needed any!

The Castle Point Council long winded Local Plan process, (yes we know it is important to get it right and that No Plan is better than a Bad Plan, oh sorry that is a different current process), has indicated with the usual accuracy that the current Housing Need is roughly between 326 -410 New Dwellings per Year!

The latest Government Assessment indicates, ahead of a consultation on the methodology used, that Castle Point requires 342 New Dwellings per Annum.

The estimate of Green Belt land in the Borough is 55%.

This consultation sets out a number of proposals to reform the planning system to increase the supply of new homes and increase local authority capacity to manage growth.

Proposals include:

  • a standard method for calculating local authorities’ housing need
  • how neighbourhood planning groups can have greater certainty on the level of housing need to plan for
  • a statement of common ground to improve how local authorities work together to meet housing and other needs across boundaries
  • making the use of viability assessments simpler, quicker and more transparent
  • increased planning application fees in those areas where local planning authorities are delivering the homes their communities need

The ‘Housing need consultation data table’ sets out the housing need for each local planning authority using our proposed method, how many homes every place in the country is currently planning for, and, where available, how many homes they believe they need.

Alongside this consultation, the ‘Comprehensive registration programme: priority areas for land registration’ document lists those areas where Her Majesty’s Land Registry intends to prioritise the registration of ownership of all publicly held land.

A link to the Consultation can be found HERE.

Apologies for the lack of any photograph, we hope it doesn’t detract from the content.

 

We Must Build on Canvey Island in the interests of Sustainability, regardless of no future plan to Care for those made Homeless! And Inside Housing Report on Thorney Bay.

Soon Castle Point Council may well be faced with a Housing problem. One that has not been publically discussed, but nevertheless will one day soon need to be addressed. One that is out of the local authority’s ability to address or control.

Thorney Bay is “Home” to many people and families who, through no fault of their own, are in need of decent living accommodation.

Thorney Bay Beach Camp, Canvey Island, Essex

copyright Jason Hawkes

Some families may have been relocated to Canvey Island from distant areas, and now consider Canvey AND Castle Point their home.

Castle Point Council point out;

“In a very broad sense the continued development of Canvey Island is necessary to sustain the local community and prevent the social and economic blight of the settlement. To this extent the proposal does therefore have sustainability benefits. However, it must also be remembered that at the present time the site is occupied by park homes. These are single storey, relatively lightweight structures, which would offer little resistance to flood waters. The replacement of these structures with robust brick buildings, incorporating flood resilience measures and providing safe refuge in the event of a flood is considered to represent a significant sustainability benefit which far outweighs flood risk. In risk terms the proposal is considered to offer significant benefits for occupiers of the site”.

So as far as the “No Threat from Tidal Flooding” brigade are concerned, CPBC are also, it appears scare-mongerers! Or at least they are when it suits them!!

How kind of them to consider that they are compelled to continue developing on Canvey, for our own benefit!!!

Never mind that the increased Population and Property at Risk on the Island may have less sustainability benefits, and indeed may cause Economic Blight!

The substantial Land Raising that has been carried out on the Thorney Bay site, appears to be of little or no concern of Castle Point Council, this despite the implications for off-site Flood Risk, both from Tidal and Surface Water sources, to neighbouring properties in the Thorney Bay area!

Currently Thorney Bay has been identified in “recent” draft editions of their Local Plan as being allocated for Housing development of in excess of 600 dwellings.

Permission has been levered through,by CPBC development committee,  for a first phase of 89 Detached Dwellings plus 24 Flats.

Surprisingly, or perhaps Not, prior to any “bricks and mortar” dwellings, which would offer more “resistance to flood waters”, the site owners are going ahead with installing a new Park Home estate.

A Park Homes development at Thorney Bay, or Sandy Bay, presumably will side step the “agreed” requirements for the developer to provide;

affordable housing, £241 per Resident Dwelling towards the provision of adult social care, £73,774 per 100 Residential Dwellings towards post sixteen education services, £97.42 per Residential Dwelling towards adult education services, Net Early Years and Childcare Pupil Product contribution, £281.48 per Residential Dwelling towards the County’s library services on Canvey Island, additional access onto Thorney Bay Road in the form of a roundabout junction and access road, this Schedule requiring the Developer and Owner to transfer free from incumbrances the Roscommon Way Phase 2 Land to the County or the County’s Nominee, the provision of a 19m undeveloped and unfettered development protection zone, measured from the landward toe of the existing tidal defences and the financial contribution of £100,000 Index Linked towards the capital construction costs of the first phase of tidal defence improvements required by c.2040. 

CPBC themselves, appear to have a very low and demeaning opinion of the current occupants of Thorney Bay, indicating no comments on the local authority’s responsibilities towards their likely re-homing requirements;

” It is considered that Thorney Bay has contributed in the region of 330 additional permanent residential homes to the overall housing provision within Castle Point in the period 2001 to 2011.”

” Due to the relatively low costs of this accommodation compared to that on offer in London, the site has been advertised there, attracting a large wave of migrants in addition to local people in need of cheap and/or quickly available accommodation. This has resulted in the rapid creation, since 2006, of a low income, vulnerable community including many families with children.”

“when compared to other local authority areas in England, Castle Point has the 2nd highest proportion of households living in caravans in 2011.

In 2001 Castle Point had the 31st highest proportion of households living in caravans.”

“Due to these issues there is support for proposals to redevelop a significant proportion of the site (Thorney Bay) for traditional homes. However, it is the intention of the owner to retain a smaller caravan park of 300 caravans for residential use towards the west of the existing site.

The Council need to consider how it will ensure that the socio-economic issues that have arisen on the larger site do not occur again on the smaller site, and also how this smaller site should be brought forward in a way that co-exists happily alongside the larger community as Holehaven Caravan Park, Kings Park and Kingsley Park do.

In this regard it is recommended that the Council work with the Thorney Bay owner to ensure that the quality of accommodation, the tenure arrangements and the pace of provision are appropriate to ensuring the health and well-being of residents and creating a more stable community.”

“Thorney Bay meanwhile, also experiences issues associated with unemployment and crime. There are also a number of young people living in income deprivation upon the site. This has long-term consequences for the ability of these children to achieve their potential, and for the community in terms of supporting an economically inactive population. “

“Thorney Bay however has wider implications for the local community and the local economy. The use of mobile homes for accommodation has acted to concentrate low income families, resulting in a concentration of unemployed people, children experiencing income deprivation and increased criminal activity. “

This issue has been picked up on by the UK’s building and development press:

Inside Housing article

Thousands of people on low incomes are choosing to live in caravans and mobile homes.

Martin Hilditch uncovers a hidden world that raises questions about the housing benefit system.

” Leanne McGowan lives with her daughter and two sons in a three-bedroom caravan in Canvey Island. It’s a squeeze. Her three-year-old son and seven year-old daughter share, while Ms McGowan and her fourteen-year-old son sleep in the remaining rooms.

Lack of options

The kids are at school now, but their scattered playthings mean their presence is still felt – a toy gun and motorbike lie on the floor and four Teletubbies are lined up like ornaments on a shelf in one corner of the room.

Ms McGowan occupies one of hundreds of static caravans that are sandwiched between a small, sandy beach and the looming terminals of a Calor Gas plant. She’s lived on the site for two years and housing benefit covers most, but not all, of the rent. She has to pay£18 a week top-up to cover the remainder. “It ain’t easy,” she says.

She ended up on the site after the landlord of the nearby private rented home she previously lived in sold the house.

“I didn’t have a choice when I moved here,” she says, adding that she thought the move would “just be short term”. But trying to get into another house that is affordable on housing benefit has proved impossible. “I phoned up all the [lettings] agents,” she says. “They never have anything at all.”

She’s lived in the caravan ever since. “It is cramped,” she admits, saying ultimately that “I don’t think it is suitable for families to be in here.”

Sitting between two electric heaters, Ms McGowan admits that the caravan gets “ever so cold” in the winter – and keeping it warm is an expensive business. She has spent £4 on heating in less than 24 hours. In the winter months the family sometimes keeps warm by effectively living in the lounge. “We get the mattresses in here,” she says. “We sleep here sometimes, yes. I don’t mind being cold, but it’s the kids. It is like we are camping out in the front room.”

The site itself is “not a bad place to be”, says Ms McGowan, who is on a waiting list for a council home.She adds that it’s well-maintained and there’s a friendly atmosphere. “There are some nice people on here and they look after each other,” she says. “It’s nice in that respect. We are all in the same situation.”

She’s not wrong there. In fact, there are currently 268 housing benefit claims registered to addresses on the site. Research carried out by Inside Housing this year has revealed Canvey Island’s Thorney Bay Village has more housing benefit claims registered to it than any other caravan or mobile home site in the UK. Last year, £1.9m of housing benefit was paid to addresses here. Our investigation reveals that the residents of Thorney Bay Village are far from unique. In fact, we found that there are thousands of people on low incomes currently living in caravan and mobile home parks across the UK. Responses received between May and August this year reveal the 271 councils that provided information to Inside Housing made more than 12,000 housing benefit payments to addresses on caravan and mobile home parks in the UK – with 11,162 of these being made in England (an average of 47 claims per authority. See box: Caravan counts).

The payments, obviously,do not reveal people’s motivations for making these choices – and clearly there will be variations in quality between permanent mobile homes and holiday caravans that people are occupying permanently.Nonetheless it does reveal a significant number of people living in non-traditional housing that the majority of councils know next to nothing about. Almost everyone Inside Housing spoke to at Thorney Bay Village cited affordability as one of their central reasons for ending up on the site.

The research certainly raises some serious questions, according to Matt Downie, director of policy and external affairs at homelessness charity Crisis.

“This investigation has revealed millions of pounds of benefits being spent on keeping people incompletely substandard living conditions,” he says. “This sorry state of affairs is a direct result of cuts to housing benefit combined with the failure of a succession of governments to build enough decent, affordable homes.”

Certainly, the availability of housing benefit is driving decision-making for a number of residents living in Thorney Bay Village – and housing benefit did not even cover the full rental cost of a caravan for any of the occupants Inside Housing met. Rents ranged from £145 to £175 a week, based on the people we spoke to. One woman, who lives in a van with her young children, said she was topping up her housing benefit to cover the rent. She picked the site because“it was this or a hostel”, she adds.

Other residents are more enthusiastic. Dean Simmonds and Helen Davies live in a three-bed caravan with Ms Davies’ two children. Helen has lived there for more than four years since moving from her native Wales (and a Welsh flag hangs proudly outside the couple’s home). Their front room is the picture of domestic life, with paintings by the kids decorating the wall and photos of the children dotted around the place.

“I love it here,” Ms Davies says. “The camp is very clean all the time.” The couple’s van is spotlessly tidy, but Ms Davies admits that the festive season is more complicated when you live in a caravan. “At Christmas time you have got to think about what [presents] you’re getting because you have got to find somewhere to put it,” she says with a laugh. Ms Davies pays £18 a week top-up to cover her rent, and says she has fallen slightly into arrears as a result. A similar story is told by a couple of other residents.

Clearly the fact that housing benefit can’t even cover the cost of a static caravan – when people on low incomes are choosing to live there because they are seen as the most affordable option locally – raises its own questions. Like Mr Downie, a spokesperson for Castle Point Council points a finger at the housing benefit system. The council is currently making 468 housing benefit payments to addresses on caravan and mobile home sites – more than any other local authority in the UK.

Thorney Bay’s caravanners’ struggles to cover the rent from housing benefit “is not unique to Thorney Bay”, the spokesperson suggests. “This is the story behind the majority of housing benefit cases within the private sector, where housing benefit is based on Local Housing Allowance rent levels, which do not reflect the increase year-on-year of the private rental market.”

Gathering evidence

Other councils have been investigating their caravan and mobile home populations too in recent years. In 2014, Folkestone Council found“emerging evidence from around the district that some residents are occupying holiday-let caravans as their main or sole home”. It found 45 occupants in receipt of housing benefit from holiday-let caravans. Denbighshire Council estimated that “175 individuals in the county were living all year round in‘holiday’ caravans.”

Some sites are marketing caravans specifically as a solution for people on low incomes. A post earlier this year on spareroom.co.uk advertised caravans in Greetham, Rutland for £90,stating that “DSS is welcome” and people could move into “not just a room – a full caravan to yourself at room rates”. And Falcon Mobile Homes makes an explicit pitch on Facebook to people on low incomes, asking: “Are you receiving housing benefit? If so you can rent one of our static caravans”.

Posts on property websites provide a snapshot into the lives of some people looking for or living in caravans. One 47-year-old man posting on Gumtree says he and his dog“desperately need a home as we have become homeless” and is looking for a flat,a house or a caravan. Other people are looking to move out of vans. One woman posts on behalf of her mother saying she is “currently sofa surfing from my house to a crabby broken caravan” and is “in desperate need of a home so she can have my brother live with her again”.

A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions says it has “no evidence that use of this type of accommodation is increasing or that there is any link to welfare reform”.

While many councils appear to have little idea about the extent to which people are living permanently in caravans and mobile homes in their areas, some local authorities have carried out specific pieces of research – presenting them with an unanticipated windfall.

East Lindsey Council, for example, launched a review at the end of 2014 into the occupation of caravan/chalet sites and said residents had raised concerns about “breaches of occupancy at caravan sites”.

The results of East Lindsey’s research took it by surprise. It uncovered 502 residents living in mobile homes or caravans. In turn, the council effectively suggests the work has brought 502 “new” homes into use. This has led it to claim New Homes Bonus– the grant paid by the government to councils to reflect and incentivise housing growth in their areas.

Since the review was started it has successfully claimed £605,000 of New Homes Bonus for these properties, according to a council spokesperson. It’s not alone; a company called Mobile Homes Review claimed it has generated £4.2m in additional New Homes Bonus funding in 2014 by registering 700 mobile homes in seven local authority areas.

Ros Pritchard, director general of the British Holiday & Home Parks Association, stresses that more research is needed to find out if claims were being made from high-quality residential parks (that look like “lovely bungalows”) or holiday accommodation.“Residential parks are an enormous form of low-cost market housing,” she adds.

Nevertheless, the scale of housing benefit payments uncovered by Inside Housing’s investigation suggests that more research should be carried out by councils and the government into the reasons people on low incomes are choosing to live in caravans and mobile homes – and the quality of the accommodation available to them.

Back at Thorney Bay Village, we meet Paul Birch and his husband Tom. They moved to the site after becoming homeless and had previously lived in a transit van for a month. The unpacked removal boxes in the corner of their room reveal the couple don’t see this as their permanent home. They have been on the site for the past year –and say winter is the worst time.

“The winter was hell,” Mr Birch states. “It is like a fridge.” His husband says they spent £35 a week on heating the van last winter. Both are looking forward to the future – as the removal boxes indicate. “As soon as we move out, hopefully it will be onwards and upwards,” Mr Birch says.”

Hypocrisy, the Use of Substitutes, a Deciding Vote and a Divided Borough? Sequentially Unsound!

It appeared that what can only be described as a level of Hypocrisy was displayed by certain Castle Point Development Committee members towards a view suggested by the opposition group at the 5th September’s meeting!

The suggestion appeared that Canvey was, put simplistically, being targeted for development so as to protect the mainland areas. It was expressed that Canvey should not be portrayed as an individual area, rather than an equal part of the whole Borough of Castle Point.

However the whole basis of the Flood Risk Sequential Test, as interpreted by Castle Point Council, is to treat Canvey Island in isolation!

“it is considered that continued development is necessary in order that the settlement of Canvey can continue to thrive economically and socially.”

” Canvey needs continued development if it is to continue to thrive economically. A lack of housebuilding on the island could mean that the island stagnates in economic terms which is likely to affect opportunities for employment. “

Indeed the Thorney Bay proposal for 600+ dwellings  was subject to a CPBC Planning Policy statement stating that “the site was identified as having the potential to contribute towards the 5 Year Housing Supply (of the Borough)”!

Regardless of the application being considered, whether for a single unit or a proposal for over 600 dwellings on Canvey Island, it is fairly clear that using this interpretation of the Sequential Test to support development proposals, there is no likelihood of any planning proposal Failing the Test!

It is a convenient and flimsy argument to accuse Islanders of focussing on cpbc’s apparent approach to Canvey development, whilst the Sequential Test is used to do precisely that!

It should be of concern, that since Canvey land was designated for the use of Housing in the 1998 Local Plan, and that since the Sequential Test approach towards its application on Canvey development proposals was adopted by CPBC in 2007, these events have occurred and these Reports have been published;

  • The Pitt Review-Learning Lessons from the 2007 floods. (Published 2008) !!!
  • The CPBC Strategic Flood Risk Assessment published in 2010. (In itself due an Update.)
  • Surface Water Flooding has occurred on Canvey Island during 2013.
  • Surface Water Flooding has occurred on Canvey Island during 2014.
  • Government Office for Science – Canvey Island Section 19 Report
  • The requested Drainage Improvement / Upgrade funding has not materialised.
  • We learned that the land on Canvey Island has a High Water Table, subject to influence by the Tidal Water encroaching Under the Sea Defences. (Land East of Canvey Road document).
  • The Integrated Urban Drainage Study was published, which challenged the credibility of the CPBC Surface Water Management Plan published 2012.

Quite clearly the Castle Point Council approach to the application of the Sequential Test on Canvey Island in isolation, is Obsolete and Unjustified!

Attenuation Tanks were discussed as a means of a suitable drainage system. Had the committee not considered that Canvey has a High Water Table, now known to be subject to Tidal influence? In this case the Tank would be sunk into the application site property, how efficient would this system of drainage be?

Photo Police helicopter 2014

The focus of the drainage system needs to be to prevent off-site flooding of neighbouring property and land. Without going through the exercise of producing a Practical Model on Canvey island and monitoring over an extended period councillors should not be in a position to simply go by unsubstantiated opinion in their decision making!

Whilst the protection of Green Belt, which is admirable, is at the forefront of councillors minds, it must be borne in mind that Paragraph 14 of the national Planning Policy Framework contains Footnote 9, which indicates;

specific policies in this Framework indicate development should be restricted.9

those policies relating to sites protected under the Birds and Habitats Directives (see paragraph 119) and/or designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest; land designated as Green Belt, Local Green Space, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Heritage Coast or within a National Park (or the Broads Authority); designated heritage assets; and locations at risk of flooding or coastal erosion.

Whilst this specifically relates to Plan making, it is clear that, if the concern is present amongst decision makers development in a Flood Zone and in a Critical Drainage Area, in which Canvey Island falls into both categories, caution should be the operative position to adopt.

Residents suffering the Canvey Island Flooding of 2013 and 2014 may well feel appalled at the rigid Rejection of development applications on Green Belt, whilst a less than cautious approach appears to be adopted where Flood Risk is concerned, by certain cpbc development committee members.

The cpbc officer appeared unaware that the whole of Canvey Island is a Critical Drainage Area.

The questionable use of Substitute councillors to replace two absentees at the meeting, bearing in mind the technical issues highlighted in this planning proposal, proved to be decisive, as 1 voted to Approve and 1 voted to Abstain.

With the votes recorded as 5 to Approve and 5 Against, with 2 Abstentions, the Chairman chose to use his Casting Vote, and consequently rather than holding further deliberations on the subjects contained within this post and others not mentioned, the Application was Approved!

Continued Development Necessary, for Canvey Island to Thrive Economically and Socially, despite the Hazards!

Is there a point where it becomes inconsiderate, down right fool-hardy or plain morally wrong, to Plan to continually increase the population of Canvey Island?

Or have we already reached the stage where Castle Point Council’s policies have left the Island over populated?

Currently the policy of Castle Point Council is clear, it intends to continue to develop Housing and Business properties on the Island as a necessity as, “it is considered that continued development is necessary in order that the settlement of Canvey can continue to thrive economically and socially.”

Canvey Island, as all residents, prospective and current, should know, is at Actual Risk of Tidal Flooding, suffers from Surface Water Flooding and is home to 2 Top Tier COMAH sites, Oikos and Calor.

In addition to this OIKOS have permission to expand its facilities having had this proposal approved; Construction of a new deep water jetty facility consisting of the refurbishment of and extension to the existing OSL Jetty, refurbishment of an existing 12 tank storage compound and the undertaking of related operational and site infrastructure works.

Calor currently have gas import facility via its own jetty.

Entry and Exit of Canvey Island is possible from just one point, Waterside Farm Roundabout.

Should there be an incident of any type the Council wish Residents, in the first instance, to Shelter.

Sheltering, “is normally the preferred option. This involves residents being asked to stay in their homes, close all doors and windows, tune into local media sources and await further instructions, or the all clear from the emergency services.

The evacuation of residents is normally a last resort, however should the emergency pose a significant risk, then it may be the only viable option.”

So before any reader gets too carried away with us being Scare-mongerers, the possibility of an incident that may require Evacuation of the Island exists and cpbc recognise it!

However the only examination , albeit some years ago, into the logistics of an Evacuation found that the timescale could involve taking over 19 hours! This was prior to the introduction of Traffic Lights at Sadlers Farm Roundabout and the increase in population recorded in the 2011 Census!

It must be assumed that the 19 hours estimated would have been for an orderly evacuation exercise.

In practise the Summer Floods of 2014 gave a clear indication of the capacity of the Escape Routes. In particular Canvey Way became blocked, as per usual. This in turn actually stopped the Emergency Services, in this case the Environment Agency, from attending the Drainage Pumps that were either malfunctioning or had lost electrical power!

The Environment Agency reported to ECC “The flood water on the Island made conditions difficult for our engineers to move between pumping stations, this in turn made the response to the ongoing problems at the pumping stations more challenging.”

Essex County Council concluded;

” As such, the impact on flood risk of any new proposals for development (on Canvey Island) or alterations to permeable land, for example the paving of gardens, needs to be considered very carefully and impermeable surfaces avoided where possible. .”

Many moons ago our local authority made an effort to communicate to each household, measures to be taken by Residents should a Flood occur, this has long since ceased!

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The 2005 Buncefield incident is relative to Canvey Island. Canvey’s 2 Hazardous Industrial Sites in liaison with Essex County Council have their own Emergency Plans. That  only certain limited information is shared with just the absolute closest of neighbouring residents, highlights the lack of Preparedness of the vast majority of Islanders. The potential for the whole of Canvey to be badly affected by an “accident” at either Hazardous Site exists.

The Hertford Police updated Buncefield Residents;

“Whilst this operation is ongoing there will be increased settlement of dust and soot particles as the temperature cools under the plume of smoke over the Hemel Hempstead area. We would remind residents of messages relayed yesterday that these dust and soot particles are an irritant which can cause coughing, irritation to the eyes and nausea – particularly to elderly, those with existing respiratory problems and young people. Wherever possible, people in the Hemel Hempstead area should continue to ‘go in, stay in and tune in’ to media bulletins and avoid all unnecessary journeys.

Those people who work in the area were also asked to make contact with their own companies and not to go anywhere near the area until advised it was safe to do so.

Warnings were also issued through the media that slowing or stopping to film the ongoing incident on mobile phones or other devices was not only a possible danger to the safety of road users but was also likely to constitute a criminal offence.

At this time, the advice remains to people in the affected area to stay indoors, close windows and watch/listen to news bulletins for updates. This advice is especially relevant to people who have some form of respiratory condition such as asthma or bronchitis.”

It is apparent that there is a strong case for an open and transparent engagement with Canvey Residents, so that it is clear what actual At Risk Register, dangers exist and the responses required of Residents. Being unaware is a Recipe for Panic!

“In COMAH, there is a requirement to share information between
site operators and Category 1 and 2 responders in order to fulfil the requirements
of the duty for risk assessment, warning and informing the public and the
preparation of on-site and off-site emergency plans.”

The argument that keeping Residents in the Dark so as to protect property  prices and encourage further development, is a Reckless Policy!

We are reminded that Castle Point has an ageing population, many Residents can be considered At Risk. There is a need for an At Risk Register. There is a need for an Able to Assist Register.

An Informed Community, can be better Prepared to React and Respond correctly and. those able, be in a position to assist.

However the Castle Point policy; “that continued development is necessary in order that the settlement of Canvey can continue to thrive economically and socially” appears to ignore any possibility that any incident or “accident” could endanger Residents and property, or that there is adequate resources on standby ready to respond to any eventuality without Residents assistance.

Meanwhile Castle Point council have published their new Emergency Response Plan.

We have added a link to the document HERE.

The chances of Canvey Island Flooding during the next 1 in 316 year event, may not be in 316 years time!

Of late on Canvey Island social media websites, it has been noted how some contributors have expressed their view that the island faces a flooding threat from Rainfall, rather than from a Tidal breach or over-topping.

Indeed some have even gone as far as stating that it is Scare-mongering to even suggest the possibility that a threat from Tidal flooding even exists. For this post we will ignore Tidal flooding, leaving those wishing to keep their heads in the sand, and concentrate on Surface Water Flooding.

Following the 2014 Summer Flooding on Canvey Island and the ensuing Flood Investigation Reports, it was recommended that the terminology to indicate the threat of flooding should be altered. That is the existing 1 in 30 year, 1 in 100 year etc possibility of flooding, should be updated so that a more appropriate, more readily understood explanation of the possibility of a flood event is available.

Three years on and it appears that little has changed. This leaves homeowners and businesses oblivious to potential dangers and consequently ill-prepared.

This also leads local authorities into money saving complacency, and having to be reminded of their maintenance responsibilities.

Drain 4.04.17

There are concerns that monies from central government is granted but not strictly allocated to maintenance intended, councils preferring to place grants into central funds.

Some scepticism eludes from the ECC Flood Investigation where maintenance funds were apparently used, and yet the work carried out had little effect on preventing flooding in the following months.

Extracts from the ECC Investigation into the Canvey Island 2014 reveals;

In the period of time between 13:40 and 18:00 one million cubic metres of water fell on the island, which equates to almost the full capacity of Wembley Stadium.

This event was unprecedented,                                                                                                                       and the return period for this rainfall event is estimated at 1 in 316 years or 0.3% chance of it occurring in any given year.

Rainfall on the island may flow a substantial distance before reaching the pumps, through infrastructure owned or managed by a large number of different organisations and individuals and in some cases without a clear understanding of ownership. Any constriction on flow either due to blockage or insufficient capacity for the rainfall event can affect the effective operation of the entire drainage system.

As a result of the relatively densely populated urban areas and large areas of impermeable surfaces the island is especially susceptible to intense rainfall events which result in flash flooding. In combination with the flat topography of the island this means that Canvey is particularly dependent on the designed drainage infrastructure to mitigate flood risk.

Following the longest sustained period of wet weather on record over the winter months, Essex County Council released an additional £1m of emergency revenue funding to deal with highway related flooding.

In mid-February 2014 Castle Point Borough Council put forward its Top 5 flooding sites to Essex County Council, 4 of which were on Canvey Island:

Canvey Seafront area, Lottem Road area, North Avenue area, Town Centre area.

Extensive cleansing, CCTV surveys and jetting of the highways assets was undertaken at all of these locations and where necessary repair works were programmed.  

Arising from these works in the Canvey Seafront Area a larger Surface Water Alleviation Scheme (SWAS) has been identified and put forward for funding (circa £100,000). 

Generally, the drainage system at this location is very flat and prone to heavy silting.

Gullies, catch pits and associated pipework on Canvey Island are cleansed annually as part of the cyclical annual gulley cleanse.                                                                                                                      

There are a total of 5,767 highway and footway gullies in Canvey. 

In 2013/14 5,672 gullies were attended and of these 5,298 (91.8%) were cleansed.

On a personal level, my area of Canvey is amongst the unfortunate 8.2%.

However, returning to the issue of updating the terminology to indicate the threat of flooding should be altered. That is the existing 1 in 30 year, 1 in 100 year etc possibility of flooding, should be updated so that a more appropriate, more readily understood explanation of the possibility of a flood event.

It has been 3 years since the 2014 Canvey Island summer flooding and it appears no new system of flood possibility measurement has emerged.

Meanwhile following the flooding in Houston USA, the FiveThirtyEight blog reveals similar concerns regarding Flood Risk measurement terminology is a talking point across the Atlantic.

The FiveThirtyEight Blog post can be read HERE.

 

 

Persimmon’s Increase Profits 30% – Land Bank nears 100,000 Sites!

Persimmon has eyes on Castle Point. Their Jotmans Farm proposal, turned down by the Secretary of State, is due to be challenged on Appeal in the High Court.

Previously they have Withdrawn their proposal for 265+ dwellings at East of Canvey Road, Canvey Island.

Persimmon’s half year returns indicate a startling uplift in Profits And Land Bank sites!

One of the UK’s largest house builder has increased its profits by 30% as its Land Bank nears 100,000 Sites!

Telegraph Business Reported;

FTSE 100 housebuilder Persimmon has reported a 30pc jump in profits in the first half of the year as it avoided the effects of a slowdown in the housing market.
Persimmon’s pre-tax profits rose 30pc to £457.5m in the six months ended June 30, while revenues were up 12pc to £1.66bn.
It built 556 new homes in the period, an increase in completions of 8pc to a total 7,794, as it made the business more efficient. Its average selling price rose 4pc to £213,262.
“The market remains confident,” said chief executive Jeff Fairburn. “Customer interest in our developments remains strong with encouraging levels of interest through both our websites and our sales outlets as we trade through the quieter summer weeks.

“Whilst we remain vigilant to changes in market conditions we also recognise we are in a strong position to take advantage of opportunities that arise.”

However the company said it would “remain cautious” when it comes to investing in new land, primarily due to Brexit-induced uncertainty facing the economy.

It was boosted by the Government-backed scheme Help to Buy, which Anthony Codling, an analyst at Jefferies, said was “acting as a bullet-proof vest for the new-build sector allowing it to ride above the challenges faced by the second hand market”.

 He added: “Persimmon [is] continuing to balance the market’s appetite for more new homes with investors’ desires for higher cash returns”.

The housebuilding giant sells around half of its homes using the scheme, which allows buyers to purchase a new-build property with a 5pc deposit. Earlier this month, Persimmon’s share price fell 6.6pc in one day after a news report suggested that Help to Buy could be ended before its planned date of 2021. After the Government confirmed it would not, the share price rebounded.

Mr Fairburn said: “We should take confidence from the fact the scheme works very well. It does what it was intended to do. The Government should be pleased it stimulated housebuilding, and more people can buy new houses.”

Laith Khalaf, a senior analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “The latest results from Persimmon have a bit of swagger about them, and well they might, with profits rising by almost a third despite a slowdown in economic growth.

“The UK housebuilding sector is still sitting pretty, with interest rates staying low, the Help to Buy scheme supporting demand, and a lack of supply helping to boost prices.”