Tag Archives: 1953

Canvey Island development Free for All! Environment Agency weak approach encourages Castle Point Council’s laissez-faire attitude to Planning!

Are you sitting Comfortably?

Then I’ll begin –

“The (Canvey Island) application site is located within Flood Zone 3a, which has a high probability of flooding. Looking at the whole of Castle Point District it would seem that there are areas within Flood Zone 1 that could accommodate this form of development.

However, given that the only areas of Flood Zone 1 in the district are on the “mainland” part, such an approach would direct all new development towards Benfleet and Hadleigh.

Canvey is a self-contained community with its own housing needs and directing all new development towards Benfleet and Hadleigh could have an adverse impact on Canvey socially and economically.

Furthermore, a need for housing on Canvey cannot be met by building around Benfleet and Hadleigh due to other constraints such as the Green Belt.”

So says the cpbc Planning Officer as the latest attempt to convince residents, councillors and, no doubt the Planning Inspectorate, that castle point council’s approach to the application of the Flood Risk Sequential Test is morally sound!

July 2014photo3

Going back just 10 years things were different and the Environment Agency held a more cautious and responsible stance:-

Extract from the Echo June 2008
“DEVELOPERS seeking to build new homes on Canvey are being forced to think again because of growing fears about flooding.
The Environment Agency is resolutely pursuing its policy of recommending refusal of plans to build new homes on the island because Canvey is below sea level and therefore on a flood plain.

Castle Point Council is taking those recommendations to heart and rejecting applications for new homes, leaving some developers in limbo.
The council has pledged to continue upholding the Environment Agency’s recommendations until the results of a Government-initiated inquiry into flood plains publishes its findings.

The Government appointed Sir Michael Pitt to carry out the study, following catastrophic floods in Hull after heavy rainfall in June and July last year. It is likely the final report expected, this summer, will recommend tighter restrictions.

Ray Howard, Castle Point and Essex county councillor, said local authorities were reluctant to ignore the Environment Agency’s advice, while they are waiting for the results of the Pitt Report.
Mr Howard has received many letters from people struggling to build on Canvey.
He said: “It’s a big problem that needs to be looked at. We can’t have a blanket ban for building here.
“I believe Canvey is unique, as it has the best flood walls and flood water drainage system in the country.

“The flood plain rules should be relaxed for us.”

Last week localised flooding on the island, caused by heavy rainfall, affected hundreds of residents on the island.

But Mr Howard is convinced it is well protected against severe flooding from the Thames Estuary.
A total of £34 million was spent rebuilding Canvey’s sea walls in the 1970s and 1980s.
A further £6 million was spent last year on 14 giant pumps, spread around the island to force water back into the sea if the walls are ever breached.
Mr Howard said: “The reason Canvey is always considered high-risk is because of the 1953 flood.
“But back then the only sea defences were soil walls, built by the original Dutch settlers.”
The 1953 Canvey flood claimed the lives of 58 people.

Despite Mr Howard’s insistence that Canvey is well protected, the Environment Agency refused to budge from its policy of objecting to all new homes on flood plains.
Spokeswoman Rita Penman insisted the Environment Agency could not relax its planning guidelines for Canvey,

She said: “Although Canvey is well defended, the current understanding across the country is that if there are other areas not on the flood plains, they should be developed first.

“This is in the interests of everyone’s safety. We are therefore unable to recommend approval for any new developments on Canvey at the present time.”

Even if the Government report clears the way for new homes on flood plains, insurers are warning hundreds of thousands of homes built in high-risk areas may not qualify for insurance.

Nick Starling, the Association of British Insurers’ director of general insurance and health, said: “Poor planning decisions will lead to more homes becoming unsaleable, uninsurable and uninhabitable”

Disappointing then, that following the Summer Flooding of 2014 the cpbc chief executive officer should point out that the Canvey Island drainage system – was never intended to be able to cope with Tidal Flooding of the Island!

But of course the findings of the cpbc Scrutiny Committee’s meetings to discuss the flooding and its consequences, during which the ceo made the admittance, has never been published, despite the flood occuring 4 years past!

To enforce the Association of British Insurers position, above, the Flood Re scheme to guarantee affordable house insurance against flooding does not cover houses built since January 2009.

Has Caveat emptor, been anymore appropriate?

I have been reminded by a sceptical mainlander that, “IT IS HARD TO FOOL PEOPLE, BUT IT’S EVEN HARDER TO CONVINCE PEOPLE THAT THEY HAVE BEEN FOOLED.”

The short EA video below may give you some insight as to the sensibility of those that propose and support the over development of Canvey Island and whether the drainage system could ever be made capable of alleviating Flood Risk!

The EA expert’s explanation of how the drainage System is designed to work, appears to be far different to the practical experiences during 2013 and 2014 and the isolated Flooding incidents during other periods!

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Canvey Island, Flooding, Over-Development, Local Plan, draft NPPF Consultation and the National Flood Forum. Unrest Grows!

Canvey Island, is synonymous with Flooding.

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Despite the tragedy of 1953, the major Surface water Flooding of 2014 and other similar events, Canvey is cynically treated as a “Special Case”. This is so that Housing Development, Park Home expansions can continue unabated.

These new homes are sold to unsuspecting buyers, with little reference as to the likely problems in obtaining House Insurance against Flooding on New Builds, since January 2009.

All so that the expectations of a New Local Plan are fulfilled.

The Castle Point Council Strategic Flood Risk Assessment, undertaken by Scot Wilson to comply with the demands of the failed Core Strategy in 2010, identified Canvey Island being “At Risk” from Flooding!

Consequently a Reason had to be “invented” so as to permit all, from Small to Large site Housing Development on Canvey. CPBC’s officers, at the behest of certain councillors, cosied up to the Environment Agency and the Strategic Flood Risk assessment was Distorted to permit continued over development!

Since then no developments are Rejected in principle by cpbc on Flood Risk grounds. CPBC claim that for development to serve, and the continued growth of Canvey Island, the development MUST be ON Canvey Island. As though Castle Point is a massive Borough divided by language barriers and with miles of sea between us and the mainland!

The draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) has recently been consulted upon. We, the Canvey Green Belt Campaign Group, have monitored the submissions, especially where Flood Risk is concerned.

We found that the group known as the National Flood Forum have submitted comments that identified issues most relevant to Canvey Island.

And that if our local authority “Ruling Party” and our new leader, are unwilling to truly represent Canvey Island Residents, at least the National Flood Forum have quite capably stated OUR Position

We make no apologies for this being a long read, but we ask you to at the very least skim through it and allow the relevant issues trigger something in your mind, if you were affected in 1953, 2013, 2014 or have been concerned or affected by Flooding at any stage.

The NPPF Consultation has closed, however we have failed to discover a published response to the consultation from Castle Point Borough Council, perhaps one of our councillors may be able to direct us to the document, if it exists.

The National Flood Forum’s submission the draft NPPF consultation, with highlighted passages of some significance to Canvey residents, reads:

The National Flood Forum is a national charity dedicated to supporting and representing communities and individuals at risk of flooding. We do this by:
1. Supporting people to prepare for flooding
2. Helping people to recover their lives if they have been flooded
3. Working with government and agencies to ensure that they develop a community perspective when addressing flooding issues

As part of the flooded community, the National Flood Forum is a charity that supports communities to tackle the things that matter to them; creating hope and reducing the fear of flooding; helping people to work together to reduce flood exposure and its impacts, both physical and emotional. Over 300 flood groups are affiliated to the National Flood Forum and this response has been developed from their many comments.

The National Flood Forum regularly deals with a range of scenarios:
1. New developments that have flooded or which are likely to flood because, for example, SuDS measures are at capacity under normal weather conditions, or sites have been built on areas that are waterlogged
2. Developments which have apparently caused flooding elsewhere, or are likely to
3. Planning applications and decisions that do not make use of local knowledge of flood risk issues
4. Development planning that does not make use of local knowledge

The result is that people become extremely fearful of the future, distrustful of those in authority. This can appear as either apathy or combative behaviour.
“We had a housing estate built up in Eyam and they concreted over a large natural drainage point. And that’s in the Peak Park which is supposedly highly regulated. It’s a shambles. If you have a lot of money you can do what you want.”

Caterham Flood Action Group are also angry:
Hey “To briefly explain, our community has been blighted by surface water flooding for over twenty years, development has continued, responsibilities have been fractured, affecting maintenance (tantamount to neglect) of the delicate drainage infrastructure leaving residents in fear of precipitation.

On the 7th June 2016, after campaigning and complaining for almost two decades, the great storm wreaked havoc, destroying homes, devastating families, trapping our vulnerable and elderly neighbours for hours without power, as rivers of raw sewage flowed into our homes, through the streets of Surrey across the administrative border into a London Borough (contrary to the draft London plan, Policy Si12 B, which states ‘Boroughs should co-operate and jointly address cross-boundary flood risk issues including with authorities outside London’).

The CFAG must question if measures really are in place to guarantee that councils on the edge of the London Basin are considering the quality and capacity of the infrastructure ‘downstream’.

Paragraphs 154 – 163 of the Draft NPPF are an improvement on previous versions. But Caterham Flood Action Group, and others, do not believe that the Draft NPPF addresses their concerns that people will be put at risk of flooding.

In particular, policies and guidelines need to be much more ambitious if we are to create places that people will want to live in, that are adaptive to the future (such as being able to absorb more development) and where people feel safe.

Policies need to be translated in to action and many of the concerns from Flood Action Groups are that even the existing policies are being ridden over roughshod, with no recourse for affected communities.

The National Flood Forum strongly refutes the notion that flood risk can be outweighed by the economic benefits to the community and does not reflect the absolute misery flooding problems can cause to those involved.

The current wording in the draft NPPF virtually establishes that flooding is acceptable and provides opportunities for those who wish to find loopholes to do so. If development impacts even on a handful of households/properties, then it’s not a benefit to the community. For example, words such as “safe” in paragraph 154 are ambiguous. Whilst no one can ever be without flood risk, the wording here and in wider guidance needs to reflect community perspectives on safety, risk and what it means to feel resilient.

Data from the Association of British Insurers shows that 50% of insurance claims for properties flooded during the winter of 2015/16 were from areas that had not been identified by the public or private sectors as being at risk of flooding. In previous years the figure was sometimes higher (80% in 2007) and never lower, indicating that our understanding of flood risk and the flood risk maps available only cover a proportion of the risk. Surface water, groundwater and combined risks in particular are poorly understood.

For these two reasons greater stress should be placed in the NPPF on the rigour that is required to assess flood risk through all forms of Food Risk Assessments.

The biggest complaint from Flood Action Groups across England is that people’s local knowledge about their area is ignored, resulting in poor decisions about their future. People frequently have knowledge about their local area that professionals do not; details about previous flooding incidents, underground drainage, old drainage systems, etc. Modellers will frequently say that their modelling work simply produces useful tools and does not represent the real world exactly.

It will often lack local information to put in to the model and the parameters through which the model works will have limitations on the accuracy of what results. However, in the planning system models are often regarded as the absolute truth in the decision-making process and other evidence ignored. Communities regularly complain that this is the case. This can include information about local drainage patterns and historic flooding incidents through to the routes of major flow channels, groundwater levels and sea level rise. Therefore, development plans and planning applications should demonstrate how they have listened to local voices and how those views have been taken in to account in developing proposals. In particular they should demonstrate how triangulation has occurred between modelling, local knowledge and other forms of evidence to arrive at the most reasonable answers.

Paragraph 156) demonstrates an improved level of ambition, but not significant enough if we are to tackle flood risk seriously. The example from Shipston in Warwickshre below illustrates the point:
“The NPPF requires new developments to achieve ‘flood neutrality’ as a minimum i.e. that water run off post development should be no worse than the pre-developed site.
We work with our Town Council and the developers in negotiating better than flood neutrality at or before the planning stage and have had some success in getting their drainage strategies to achieve betterment – in most cases within the range of 25/40%.
With modern SUDS systems, their creative application and a willingness to meet improved objectives this is perfectly achievable at relatively low, if any, ‘on cost’ and of course the whole concept of betterment is essential with the increasing pressures brought about by adverse climate change trends and as a community support programme by developers.

We are concerned that the present policy is simply not ambitious enough and consider that a policy of betterment should replace the current ’neutrality’ policy.
Further, whatever the policy, specific local ground and geological conditions should be taken account of when determining the adequacy of drainage strategies by the LPA’s.
In our area Warwickshire clay is the predominant soil type and is almost completely impermeable so a literal ‘greenfield’ site in this area will already have a pre-existing high level of surface water runoff.

Further, should such ‘greenfield’ site have been used for grazing it will be highly compacted making the situation even worse.
Even further, should the site be sloping down to other developed areas great care needs to be taken to design a drainage strategy that absolutely reduces run off compared with the pre-existing situation.

Finally, the requirement that developments of less than 10 dwellings do not need LLFA oversight in giving guidance to the LPA (if different) should be reduced as it seems clear that developments of 9 or less are deliberately introduced perhaps to circumvent properly qualified scrutiny.
At present, it appears that the LPA’s simply have to check that a drainage strategy meets the NPPF guidelines which, in the circumstances described above, would likely be completely inadequate.

Once new developments are built to inadequate drainage standards in their specific local context there is no going back so this consultation is a once off opportunity to address the issue and build better resilience for the future into such developments.”

Para 158 a) contains an assertion that where there is no other option it is acceptable for a development to take precedence over people’s lives, however traumatic the outcomes might be. This is simply not acceptable and should be deleted. Developments that put people or their neighbours at a significant risk of them being flooded should not be built, whatever the pressure for new housing. Areas in Flood Zone 3, where there is significant groundwater (such as permanently within 150 cm of the surface) or significant drainage limitations should not be built on.

Where there are wider societal benefits identified, the risks of any new development should be transparent, so that businesses, infrastructure providers can make judgements about the level of risk that they are prepared to accept.

Para 160 – footnote 41. The site-specific flood risk assessment should triangulate modelling, local knowledge and other evidence. The assessment should proactively seek out local knowledge and demonstrate how this is used to develop an overall assessment. Guidance should be updated.

A common failing of current developments is that drainage plans are developed after the site layout has been determined. Retrofitting a drainage plan to a site can be difficult and lead to inferior results. Drainage plans should be submitted for all outline planning applications and should detail measures to manage water during the construction phase. The example from Charlton Flood Action Group, Worcestershire below illustrates the point.

“The Plan [South Worcestershire Development Plan] does not make any reference to the Environment Agency designated “Rapid Response Catchments” of which the Merry Brook is a very High risk one.
To minimise future flood risk in these particular vulnerable catchments we believe the plan should make reference to these Catchments and further that when any development/planning application is being agreed in these catchments that the conditions of planning should require that:
• Any flood prevention schemes should be put in place prior to the development of houses and other infrastructure being commenced. (During the last few years the development of the housing estate at Hampton, Evesham was commenced with top soil being stripped off the land. Those living in Charlton noticed that the water levels in the Merry brook increased far more quickly due to water running draining off the site. It was only when we started complaining that thought was given to installing the retention ponds and there was then a further delay until weather conditions were suitable).
• That in these catchment areas the water run off levels should be half the normal levels allowed. This should be achieved either by reducing water run-off levels or where this is not possible by the developers installing recommended schemes suggested by the Environment Agency – such as ponding on water courses.
• That all suggestions recommended by the Environment Agency should be installed. (At the Hampton development the Environment Agency had suggested that some ponding take place on the Merry Brook to help reduce water flows. This suggestion was totally ignored).
• That on small / single developments where planning consent is being sought that water run-off be considered and reduced to a minimum. Should there be a small water course running through the site then ponding/other means to reduce the flow should be installed.
• That any work on Highways in Rapid response catchment areas should also involve the installation of measures to reduce the flow of water into water courses.”

161 a) It is difficult to imagine situations where “overriding interest” applies. This clause should be removed, otherwise it will be used to push through inappropriate developments. The overriding concern must be for the wellbeing of people.

161 e) There is some confusion amongst Risk Management Authorities as to which organisation should comment on this aspect of planning applications. This needs clarification
Note 42 does not adequately cover the risks posed by surface water, ground water and combined sources. With at least 50% of flooding incidents involving surface water, this aspect needs particular attention to ensure that people are kept safe, whereas the focus of attention in the guidance is on fluvial flooding because that is where the better evidence base is. Surface and groundwater risks are often highly localised, but the trauma that is caused can be significant because often there is no scheme available that meets benefit cost criteria for investment. Rapid response catchments pose a particular risk. The result is that people continue to suffer without the prospect of ever escaping from the threat. In addition, the National Flood Forum’s experience is that people are increasingly finding it difficult to sell their home, restricting their ability to change employment, move closer to family, etc. Therefore Note 42 should explicitly refer to areas of high surface water and ground water risk, combined sources of flooding and rapid response catchments. The quote from the Food Action Group in South Woodford Ferrer, Essex, illustrates the point:
“We are currently doing our best as a voluntary group to try to alleviate a recurring fluvial/sewage flood in our local area. We are now in 2018 and still do not appear to be able to assist the residents of our town to have a better quality of life. Funding issues and OFWAT regulations leave local residents baffled as to what they can do to resolve this horrendous flood and sewage discharge situation. These flooding events appear to be occurring every 2 years (2012-2014-2016) ….surely this can’t be right? We do understand that funding is a problem but by working together we should be able to come up with a solution for these poor people living with the prospect of a significant flood every time there is a heavy rain fall.”

An area may be in Flood Risk zone 1 but at very high risk from surface water. However, reference to Flood Zone 1 will frequently allow developers to push through schemes in very high surface water risk. The point is well made by Caterham Flood Action Group:
“The Draft NPPF supports small sites being identified, essentially promoting ‘garden grabbing’, to reiterate we’re aware of the need for homes BUT in a surface water flood risk areas, we can confirm this has had devastating results over the decades, hence the need for SuDs in ALL development and retrofitting (refer to 1.2). YET 71) resists ‘inappropriate development in residential gardens, where development would cause harm’… But as we’re technically in a ‘flood zone 1’, on paper there’s NO risk, therefore development is be permitted (refer to 3.3), hence the desperate need to ensure policy guidance is ‘joined up’”

163 Minimal operational standards for Sustainable Urban Drainage systems should go beyond normal and projected normal rainfall events, with or without taking account of climate change projections. Whilst systems are unlikely to cater for every eventuality, they should be designed to cater for abnormal events, occasions where soil moisture levels are full and a series of events over a short period of time.
In some areas SuDS schemes will be inappropriate due to high water tables or permanently waterlogged soils. It may be possible to pump dry sites, but this has carbon emission issues and pumps failure does happen. In these cases, it is especially important to have a full and detailed drainage plan.
Developments currently have a right to connect to sewerage and drainage infrastructure. The National Flood Forum experience is that this may place other people at higher risk of flooding and we deal with people whose homes may not have flooded for 40-50 years, but who suddenly find that they flood every couple of years or more frequently with sewage once a development takes place. Sewerage and drainage undertakings must have the ability to refuse to connect to new developments where appropriate infrastructure is not currently in place.

Many of the issues and concerns that people in communities have relate to the skillsets and resources in drainage and flood risk management in local authorities, particularly planning authorities. These are hugely variable. It is important that Lead Local Flood Authority and Planning authorities have a qualified flood risk managers and drainage engineers to support the planning development and control process. In many cases the lack of the skills to critically examine proposals and applications has led to a failure to spot problems or allowed poor design. Whilst not a consideration for the NPPF, it is a major component of the many failures to see it applied appropriately.

Enforcement is a concern for many communities. Where there is unauthorised development or where there are planning conditions, it is a common experience that these are not enforced effectively, leading to increased flood risk for occupants and/or neighbours. The quote below from a flood group in Essex illustrates the problem:
“As regards, unauthorised development, the local authority (XXX District Council) does not seem to have adequate staff to deal with this by planning enforcement.”
Communities have sometimes worked with developers to bring forward better designs, using their local knowledge. The willingness of developers to engage meaningfully with communities has been very variable, with markedly different approaches even within the same settlement. There should be an expectation in the NPPF for developers to work with communities meaningfully to develop better designs delivering multiple benefits, rather than just running a consultation.

“Best in the Country”Sea Defence and the limitations at Canvey Island due to a Pragmatic Approach!

It is all about Perspective!

When we, Canvey Island Residents, are encouraged to believe “our” sea defences are the best, we should be aware of those in-position just across the North Sea in place to protect the Dutch.

Highlighting the Environment Agency’s deliberate warning to Castle Point Council reproduced in our previous Blog post HERE, the approach to Sea Defence Expenditure and the use of funding between the Netherlands and the UK can only be described as alarming!

Given that there are some limited levels of advance warning in place, and rather than be dismissed as scaremongering as well as advisedly, living in the Real World, we must at least, consider the damage level to property, belongings and businesses from flooding, if we are afraid to mention considering the Risk to peoples well-being!

 

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This BBC Report from 2013 remains equally relevant today, if not even more so as the Environment Agency appear to be reminding castle point council. Unfortunately their message is destined to be confined / lost amongst, CPBC planning paperwork.

The more than strong hint from the Environment Agency regarding local authorities being involved in fund raising future Sea Defence improvements, failed to make mention in the Castle Point Council’s 2017/18 Budget setting. Indeed it is noted that the level of Sea Defence in the UK is limited by Pragmatism!

With house prices at the current levels it is “concerning” to encourage young families to commit to the level of debt required to purchase homes in an area which is Sustainably questionable.

The North Sea floods of 1953 claimed 307 British lives. In the Netherlands, the dead numbered more than 1,800.

Since then, the Netherlands has developed some of the best flood defences in the world while experts believe parts of the UK coastline remain vulnerable.

The total spend on defences on the east coast in Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex was £250m in 10 years.

In the Netherlands, 0.1% of the entire gross domestic product – between 500 and 600m euros (£420m to £513m) – is spent on a network of sluices, locks and barriers.

The job of improving those defences – by making them bigger, using newer technology, widening rivers and building floating homes – is ongoing.

The Dutch Oosterscheldekering (left) and the Thames Barrier (right)
        The Dutch Oosterscheldekering (left) and the Thames Barrier (right)

The Dutch approach has been possible through taxation and a cultural commitment to flood defences as a communal responsibility.

Peter Glas, the president of the Dutch Association of Regional Water Authorities, said people in the Netherlands treated flood defence as a “collective” responsibility and rarely flinched at the idea it costs each person a few hundred euros each year.

“I think it goes back to the (1953) disaster,” he said.

There was a national feeling of “never again” and that we should safeguard our nation and population from such threats from the sea and rivers.

“That has been translated into these very high standards of defences.”

‘Imperfect, but pragmatic’

Asked whether he felt the Netherlands was better prepared for a similar surge, Mr Glas said: “It is not for me to say.

“But I think they (the British authorities) should be aware of the problems and the threat.

“The Netherlands has a standard which should safeguard our land from the kind of storms you can expect in one in 10,000 years.”

The level of protection offered by the Dutch defences is far higher than in the UK.

Even London, the best protected site in the country, pales in comparison with the level of defences built in the Netherlands.

The UK capital’s defences – which includes the Thames Barrier – are equipped for a one in 1,000-year flood or surge event.

Experts in the UK say the British approach has not been about building the best available defences, but balancing risk and cost.

Professor Ian Cluckie, pro-vice chancellor at Swansea University and the chairman of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s Flood Risk Management Research Consortium, said the typical sea defence outside of the capital was designed to protect against a 100 to 150 year “occurrence”.

“Some sensible judgement has to be made about what we can, and cannot, afford. It’s imperfect, but pragmatic.”

‘Aware of the risk’

Mark Johnson, area coastal manager for the Environment Agency, said areas like Great Yarmouth in Norfolk were vulnerable.

“Yes, there could be over-topping and we would repeat all the decisions we took back in 2007, working with the police and other emergency services to make sure people are evacuated safely.

“Everybody must be aware of the risk they are living within and, if they take heed, they should be able to move safely away from the risk areas in ample time before any flood comes.”

Emergencies in the east of England are coordinated from the Environment Agency’s flood incident control room in Ipswich.

David Kemp, the agency’s flood resilience team leader, said, much had changed since 1953.

“We are actively predicting the tide every day, days beforehand.

“Thirty-six hours ahead we know how high the tide will be and compare that to predict where floods might occur.

“The idea of missing a 1953 event is unthinkable. We’d see it a long way off.

“But however high our defences are, there is always the chance that there will be a storm that will overtop them.”

An ITN news post gives a more recent insight into the vigorous defence approach adopted by the Dutch. Arnoud Molenaar, Rotterdam’s Chief Resilience Officer says his fellow countrymen are also good at thinking long-term and translating their needs in 100 years’ time into points for action today.

That’s reflected even in the huge infrastructure projects such as the Maeslantkering barrier. The manager, Mark Walraven said, although the barrier’s design takes into account future sea-level rise due to climate change, it will only be effective for about a century.

After that, they will need something even more impressive to keep the flood waters at bay.

Read and view short videos explaining the Dutch approach and levels of Sea Defence in the ITN post, HERE.

Green Belt, the Pen is Mightier than the Sword! The Minister has Spoken! Apparently.

Castle Point Conservatives have issued this statement:

CASTLE POINT GREEN BELT CAN BE SAVED – WE HAVE IT IN WRITING!

Planning Minister Brandon Lewis has confirmed that green belt is a legitimate constraint for the number of homes the council can plan for in their new local plan.

This confirmation came in a letter to Castle Point Council Leader, Cllr Colin Riley, following a meeting of leading officers and Conservative councillors held at Westminster arranged by local Conservative MP Rebecca Harris.

Mr Lewis wrote “The Government’s Manifesto commitment to protecting green belt, sets out the great importance of the green belt and the green belt boundaries which can only be revised through the local plan process.The letter made it clear, the Minister said during his statement in parliament: that development need, does not automatically equal supply and it is entirely legitimate for Castle Point to consider the level of development to be accommodated in a Green Belt area, based on evidence of constraints to all development including Green Belt.

Commenting on the letter Cllr Riley said “This confirmation is exactly what was needed, with this extra confidence I intend to submit the letter to our Task & Finish Group as important evidence, and will push even harder to get an acceptable plan for our Borough that takes full account of resident’s interests.”

Benfleet Conservative Councillor, Cllr Skipp, whose Appleton Ward borders the Jotman’s Green Belt site said “I could not be more pleased with the letter from the Minister. I cannot speak for the Canvey Island Independent Party or UKIP but I hope the whole council will now unite to thoroughly explore protecting the Green Belt sites that residents cherish, across Benfleet, Hadleigh, Thundersley and Canvey Island”.

Cllr Cross, Conservative member for St Mary’s Ward said:
“I hope the confirmation can be used to support the council’s case in the upcoming appeals by developers on Green Belt applications. This is a very powerful letter and needs to be included fully”

It’s a shame that councillor Skipp appears to have included Canvey as an after thought, but at least we are included!

Now there can be no Complaints or hand wringing and excuses.

The advice is clear.

Or is it? The response I am led to believe is dated mid April, 4 months for the cabinet to mull over and digest appears extensive. I also gather that the issue of gardens outside of an urban area (green field) could be treated as brownfield. Leading to areas I assume such as the H18 and Felstead Road as being “eligible” for development. Some serious Plan making soul searching is required.

Why, according to the wording of the conservative statement, was a letter of confirmation still required if officers were in attendance with our MP and selected councillors? Did the officers not come away with the same interpretation as councillors? Did some councillors disagree with other councillors interpretation?

With the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment indicating the Castle Point housing supply to the end of the Plan period being in the region of 6,000 homes (I am assuming this will only include  2-300 at the Blinking Owl site), it leads to wonder how the local authority will apply the development constraints defence.

Up until now the obsession has been over Green Belt. Quite wrongly Flood Risk has featured a distant second.

With regard Green Belt, for the boundary to be altered, the criteria must be CPBC will defend at all cost an area that fulfils one of the Green Belt functions.

Interestingly all current Green Belt sites must achieve this otherwise they would not have warranted inclusion in the Green Belt in the first place.

Then the decision should be made, if previously developed Green Belt is to be reviewed, what is the criteria? How much harm, otherwise how strategically placed is the area if release from the GB is warranted.

Proposed Green Belt housing sites IN the Castle Point daft New Local Plan on Canvey Island are also in a Flood Zone!

It will be interesting to hear an Inspector’s views when considering the local authorities evidence to support this.

There is a Local Plan Task and Finish group meeting this Monday, let’s see what SOS message rings out!

Development on flood zones, local policy makers choice, regardless of advice?

Canvey Island was the base for the BBC Radio 4 documentary, the Long View, and examined whether our government should reconsider further spending cuts for the nation’s flood defences.

The effect of the North Sea surge on Canvey Island during 1953, the Thames barrier and the Canvey Island sea defences were featured as was the recent surface water flooding across the UK.
Funding was a major issue covered, and whether this allows enough to be done to prevent flood damage.

However a major issue was mentioned, that over the last 5 years 4,000 dwellings have been approved against Environment Agency advice.

The onus is clearly on Local Authorities in ignoring EA advice.

Where Canvey Island is concerned, often the EA consider they have no objection to a particular development.

However they do go on to add certain advice that our Local Authority, the Development Committee and Council officers, should be aware of.

This advice includes such details as;
recognising Canvey is at risk should there be a flood defence failure, although the likelihood of it happening is low, the consequences should it happen would be very high.
Emergency planners should be consulted closely with.
The safety of future residents is heavily reliant on them being able to move to safe refuge areas.
The EA do not comment on the local flood emergency response and evacuation procedures.
The EA do not comment on the structural stability of buildings during a flood.
The EA note that regularly that application for development within CPBC are not accompanied by evidence that the Sequential and Exception Tests have been applied.

Of late the EA also query the viability of future occupants of new dwellings on Canvey Island being able to obtain property insurance.

One wonders whether CPBC Development Committee members are armed with the very best, most up to date information available, whether it is correct for these members’ opinion, on whether, or not, one day in the future a storm surge with the power to breach our sea defences will occur.

Environment Agency advice is limited to a point as indicated above, after that it is down to Development Committee members decision-making abilities.

It cannot be ignored that the majority membership of this committee is made up of members representing wards off of Canvey Island.

This post is not aiming to be alarmist simply raising the flood risk topic and whether the over development of Canvey Island is the correct policy to pursue and whether this will lead to more or less ability, in the event of an emergency, of the residents to cope.

A third access road is irrelevant where a flood emergency is concerned, the Castle Point Authority’s emergency plan consists of a “go in, stay in and tune in” policy.

However this is one aspect that must be borne in mind as residents prepare to respond to the Local Plan draft.

CPBC Cabinet, officers and the mainland Councillors that approved the Local Plan draft being sent out to consultation believe that it is appropriate to develop, in the near future, approximately 1450 further dwellings on Canvey Island.

Your choice, or is it?

“The Long View” Broadcast today Tuesday 28th January 2014 the programme link and details can be found here.

1953 flood: How UK sea defences compare with the Netherlands

The Canvey Island Green Belt Campaign Group today reflect on the floods of 1953 in which 58 Islanders perished, along with some 1,800 Dutch.

An article posted today on the BBC News Website poses an interesting reflection on sea defences. It discusses the differences between the Dutch and UK sea defences expenditure.

It reveals much of the difference between the Dutch and British mentality. The Dutch, a distinctive community have adopted a “never again” attitude whereas the British have a confidence in their research that allows us to work within budgets. The UK budget is always stretched to limits simply due to our involvement in World affairs, whether that is through military involvement or economic crises.

Are the British prepared to commit monies on the scale of the Netherlands? Or are we happier to believe such events are unlikely to re-occur. Besides why should people living outside of flood zones be expected to contribute to funding?

The British also have this “it won’t happen to us” mentality that allows us to be resilient. The British spirit, always useful in a crisis!

Canvey’s sea defences, probably the best in the country, may be sound for 70 years. However the Environment Agency  have recently referred to some work commencing in 40 years.

These mixed messages make clear one thing, the policy of further large scale housing development in Flood Risk areas is folly. The responsibility lays solely on the shoulders of our Planning Committees who may, in our case, be made up of members living and with interests outside of the flood zone and who once they read the EA’s “no objection” believe their responsibilities are over.

This as we should know is not the case. Means of evacuation, safe refuge, persons safety, commitment from Emergency Planners, House Insurance all these  crucially important matters require carefully addressing before long term, sustainable development on a large scale can be envisaged.

Article by Laurence Cawley and Richard Daniel, BBC News

“The North Sea floods of 1953 claimed 307 British lives. In the Netherlands, the dead numbered more than 1,800.

Since then, the Netherlands has developed some of the best flood defences in the world while experts believe parts of the UK coastline remain vulnerable.

The total spend on defences on the east coast in Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex was £250m in 10 years.

In the Netherlands, 0.1% of the entire gross domestic product – between 500 and 600m euros (£420m to £513m) – is spent on a network of sluices, locks and barriers.

The job of improving those defences – by making them bigger, using newer technology, widening rivers and building floating homes – is ongoing.

The Dutch approach has been possible through taxation and a cultural commitment to flood defences as a communal responsibility.

Peter Glas, the president of the Dutch Association of Regional Water Authorities, said people in the Netherlands treated flood defence as a “collective” responsibility and rarely flinched at the idea it costs each person a few hundred euros each year.

“I think it goes back to the (1953) disaster,” he said.

“There was a national feeling of “never again” and that we should safeguard our nation and population from such threats from the sea and rivers.

“That has been translated into these very high standards of defences.”

‘Imperfect, but pragmatic’

Asked whether he felt the Netherlands was better prepared for a similar surge, Mr Glas said: “It is not for me to say.

“But I think they (the British authorities) should be aware of the problems and the threat.

“The Netherlands has a standard which should safeguard our land from the kind of storms you can expect in one in 10,000 years.”

The level of protection offered by the Dutch defences is far higher than in the UK.

Even London, the best protected site in the country, pales in comparison with the level of defences built in the Netherlands.

The UK capital’s defences – which includes the Thames Barrier – are equipped for a one in 1,000-year flood or surge event.

Experts in the UK say the British approach has not been about building the best available defences, but balancing risk and cost.

Professor Ian Cluckie, pro-vice chancellor at Swansea University and the chairman of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s Flood Risk Management Research Consortium, said the typical sea defence outside of the capital was designed to protect against a 100 to 150 year “occurrence”.

“Some sensible judgement has to be made about what we can, and cannot, afford. It’s imperfect, but pragmatic.”

‘Aware of the risk’

Mark Johnson, area coastal manager for the Environment Agency, said areas like Great Yarmouth in Norfolk were vulnerable.

“Yes, there could be over-topping and we would repeat all the decisions we took back in 2007, working with the police and other emergency services to make sure people are evacuated safely.

“Everybody must be aware of the risk they are living within and, if they take heed, they should be able to move safely away from the risk areas in ample time before any flood comes.”

Andrew Hawes is a geotechnical engineer who helped rebuild the levees around New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

He now fears for the tidal river banks near his home in Aldeburgh, Suffolk.

Speaking from the river wall south of Aldeburgh, he warned there would be widespread flooding if there is a similar surge.

“Where we’re standing here there would be over-topping of the defence, up to 200mm (8in) over our shins.

‘Unthinkable’

“We would have wide-scale flooding of the marshes and the farmland and the properties too but the defence should survive that event.

“However on the south bank in places the river walls are significantly lower and inevitably there would be breaches.”

Emergencies in the east of England are coordinated from the Environment Agency’s flood incident control room in Ipswich.

David Kemp, the agency’s flood resilience team leader, said, much had changed since 1953.

“We are actively predicting the tide every day, days beforehand.

“Thirty-six hours ahead we know how high the tide will be and compare that to predict where floods might occur.

“The idea of missing a 1953 event is unthinkable. We’d see it a long way off.

“But however high our defences are, there is always the chance that there will be a storm that will overtop them.”

To mark the 60th anniversary of the floods, BBC Essex’s Dave Monk show will be broadcasting live from the Netherlands from 09:00 until 11:30 GMT on Thursday.”