Tag Archives: Flood Plain

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 Population set to grow despite, ASPIRATIONAL Sea Defence improvements and Flood Re Insurance being unavailable!

A “proposed” new development of Flats for Canvey Island that WILL receive Approval from Castle Point Council reveals 3 serious issues.

Firstly it is correct to point out that the proposed Flats are in the Canvey Island town centre, and if anywhere is to be developed here is more appropriate so as to assist the regeneration of the town centre Retail outlets, under threat from out of town local authority preferences.

The first issue is the continued increase in population in the Flood Risk Zone of Canvey Island. Castle Point councillors and officers appear to be relaxed and show little moral concern in locating more and more people into an area at some risk of both surface water and tidal flooding.

Secondly a point given no relevance by the same Castle Point members and officers is that Canvey Island, being a FLOOD Plain is reliant on its sea defences.

 

sea wall damage

Previous damage acts as reminder of the Tidal power.

 

These sea defences will need to be raised and improved prior to the year 2100, as clearly explained by the area’s Strategic Flood Risk Assessment, to prevent potential over-topping! The potential for a breach in the defences remains.

Whilst the Environment Agency, recognising Canvey Island is a “special case”, emit the music to Castle Point’s ears “have no objection to the proposals”, however in this case feel it of the most importance to make very clear to our Local Authority the uncertainty that faces Canvey Island’s sea defence!

The EA warns;

“The TE2100 Plan is an aspirational document, rather than a definitive policy, so whether the defences are raised in the future will be dependent on a cost benefit analysis and the required funding becoming available.”

“When determining the safety of the proposed development, you should take this uncertainty over the future flood defences and level of flood protection into account.

This may require consideration of whether obtaining the funds necessary to enable the defences to be raised in line with climate change is achievable.”

Thirdly, much has been said about the benefits and protection that the Flood Re insurance scheme delivers. However this scheme will NOT benefit residential properties built post January 2009!

As a director of the Flood Re scheme pointed out to the Canvey Green Belt Campaign group, the idea of the insurance scheme is NOT to encourage development in Flood Zones!

Going by previous development committee meetings you will not hear these 3 matters discussed. Officers will make a strong point of informing members that the Environment Agency “have no objection to the proposals”.

Consequently, the level of population of Canvey Island at Risk from Flooding, continues to Grow!

Green Belt, Brown Field and Flood Plain development, with whose benefit in mind?

An interesting article from INSIDE HOUSING website discusses the advantages and disadvantages of developing brownfield sites.
It also suggests that many brown field sites are in the UK flood plain. The pro’s and con’s of these sites revolve around expense. Brownfield may be expensive to “clean up” whilst flood plain locations may be less expensive land. The concensus is that brown field should be elevated to priority, as developable land whilst flood plain requires serious consideration whether the expense benefits are out-weighed by the possible threat from surface water flood or flooding from the sea. What is perfectly clear is that if Castle Point Borough Council wished to defend, rather than promote, Canvey Island Green belt from development then the argument would not be difficult to put before the Planning Inspectorate. Advice from the Inspectorate makes clear that the sustainability of Canvey Island can be maintained without the need for large scale development.

” The benefits of brownfield
Developers are being put off brownfield sites by restrictive regulations, says Lee May, associate at Brachers
The government wants to build more homes and many are likely to be built on previously undeveloped land. A recent investigation by the Daily Telegraph found that more than 95,000 homes could be built on the green belt. But society benefits when brownfield sites are chosen as the pressure on greenfield sites is reduced and it can result in environmental improvements through the remediation of contamination. Brownfield development can also help to regenerate run down urban areas. So why doesn’t this happen more often?
Contamination law
A key factor which can put developers off is the risk of having to carry out remediation and decontamination of brownfield sites.
Complying with the contaminated land regime, set out in the Environmental Protection Act 1990, can significantly add to the cost of a redevelopment. The original polluter should be responsible for the clean-up, but it may be inherited by the developer. The potential risk of having to deal with contamination also creates uncertainty over timing and cost.
Many brownfield sites are also located in flood-risk areas, such as the Cannon Street development in Deal, Kent, which can add to the cost of development by imposing design restrictions and through requirements for flood alleviation measures. The risk of flooding and the availability of insurance can put off purchasers, affecting the value of a housing scheme.
Habitat protection issues are often associated with development in the countryside. But previously developed land in urban areas can provide ideal habitats for many species which are protected under European law. The cost and delay of providing replacement habitats can be significant.
Risky investment
Obtaining funding to redevelop brownfield sites is challenging. The risk of contamination and flooding makes the development less attractive to funders concerned with the final value. There is also the unresolved issue of whether a funder could become liable for contamination.
Many local authorities are likely to miss the deadline for having in place an up-to-date plan showing a five-year supply of deliverable housing sites. In this the national planning policy framework states that planning permission should be granted for housing schemes unless the adverse impacts of doing so would significantly outweigh the benefits.
This means that some councils will find it hard to resist greenfield sites put forward by developers even where there are suitable brownfield alternatives. If development on brownfield sites is to be encouraged then rules on contaminated land where the polluter cannot be found must be relaxed. In addition, planning policy should steer development towards previously developed land. “

Co-written by Nick Smith, partner, Brachers

Canvey West Neighbourhood Meeting on New Local Plan

Monday’s Canvey West Neighbourhood Meeting held specifically to discuss the New Local Plan and it’s implications for Canvey Island, was fairly poorly attended. However this did allow for some extensive questioning of the Officers that presented.

A major concern is that despite extensive submissions on the previous Core Strategy, none of which had any impact on the Final Document, we are now expected to believe that our input on the New Local Plan will not be dealt similarly. Of course we will continue to make objections should the Local Plan not be to Canvey’s benefit.

Castle Point Officers publically distanced themselves from Councillors by admitting last night that the Core Strategy, in which Canvey would have faired so badly, was the work of the Councillors. Officers are allowed only to give guidance. The Officers would have been professionally embarrassed by the Planning Inspector’s verdict on the Core Strategy Document that was presented to him for examination. Recalling the sequence of events leading to its withdrawal, during examination the Inspector wrote to recommend the documents withdrawal due to it being unsound. The Council chose to apply their own interpretation of his remarks and soldier on. His instruction was clear that too much development was proposed for Canvey and green belt release was required on the Mainland. A Councillor conference was held at which mainland green belt areas and Thorney Bay were considered. Council Leader Mrs Pam Challis announced in the Echo that Mainland Green Belt is required to meet the housing numbers required. This caused a response from mainland residents who banded together to let their local Councillors know their feelings. With the prospect of a revolt at the next local elections the Councillors voted to belatedly withdraw the “unsound” document.

The process of  creating a New Local Plan has commenced with us being told that the Council start with a “clean sheet”!

However in the meantime Applications are either lodged, pending or expected for Thorney Bay 600 dwellings, Dutch Village Fields (East of Canvey Road) 311, Town centre 400, Canvey Supply at the Point 100, the old Castle View School site 50 – 100.

On the Mainland Applications have been received for Kiln Road and Glebelands totally 315, this equates to a 80:20 split against Canvey should these all be approved. Exactly what the Planning Inspector found unsound about the previous Core Strategy. This does help the Council in their dilemma though, as should these all be approved by the Development Committee it will constitute a ten year supply of housing. A type of “Planning by Default”. This will make the New Local Plan a very easy document to compile, the damage to Canvey already having been done!

I believe there is a good argument against development of the Dutch Village Fields, however I have no doubt that if the proposal is turned down this time the land from the Dutch Village up to Waterside Farm will be removed from the Green Belt in the New Local Plan.

Your response to the New Local Plan Residents Questionnaire is vital, Flood Risk, lack of  Canvey Green Belt amenity, Hazardous Industries and access / egress issues are paramount, please take the time to make the Council clear or Canvey will again be the dumping ground. If you have mislaid or not received a questionnaire please let me know and I will arrange for more copies.  

For the New Local Plan process to be fair it will require Mainland Councillors to put principles ahead of their fixation with retaining their ward seats. The Mainland Green Belt Campaigners are making their selves heard and this puts pressure on their Councillors. In turn Officers are pressurised to find a need for development on our Flood Plain. The Press are a means of highlighting our plight, please make the effort to get a letter published. Alternatively there will be a meeting at the Paddocks soon to let the Council know your feelings. I will let you know when this is.