Tag Archives: Rebecca Harris

Castle Point Local Plan clear hints that Green Belt and Greenfield Land to be sacrificed! Household Projection and Development Delivery doubts mean it’s time for local MP’s involvement?

The Outlook is Bleak for Canvey Island and Castle Point residents, regarding the levels and locations of the raft of new development, both Housing and Business, planned for the borough!

Conversations between “informed contacts” over the Local Plan have confirmed an extremely pessimistic outlook, especially where Green Belt, safety, commuting, policing, health services and general Infrastructure is concerned!

The likely proposed Housing Need numbers will propose eating into the Green Belt and green fields. This will quite rightly raise residents concerns and focus thoughts as to whose Housing Needs are being fulfilled.

this especially following the latest Household Growth Projections being lower than previously estimated. The most recent effect of this has prompted the North Herts local authority to revisit their Housing Need projections at the behest of the Local Plan examining Inspector!

The latest housing projection figures have emerged as being significantly lower than the proposed number of homes to be built in the North Hertfordshire Local Plan, with the district council criticised for “sweeping the numbers under the carpet”. Article may be viewed HERE.

The question raised is whether the substance of the Government’s drive for 300,000 new builds per annum, is to match actual Housing Need, or to fulfil an aspiration.

In the case of the North Herts Local Plan the Inspector has suggested that the LA’s Housing target should be revisited despite the suggestion the Housing Minister, having commented on the general subject;

Kit Malthouse acknowledged the impact of this (Household Projection levels being lower), and advised plan-making authorities should not “take their foot off the accelerator”

Surely if the Policy of Green Belt and its permanence, plus other accepted physical Constraints are to have any Credibility at all, an aspirational drive for a Housing Target that is beyond Need should be challenged.

Is this not time for our MP Rebecca Harris, to not be asking and providing answers ahead of the Castle Point “Special Council” meeting, part of the rigid Government Timetable set only to avoid Intervention?

A Local Plan solely drawn up to a rigid Timetable, rather than being supported by the latest Evidence Base documentation, Risks being found Unsound!

“In July 2017, the Leaders and Chief Executives of the South Essex Authorities (Basildon, Brentwood, Castle Point, Rochford, Southend-on-Sea, Thurrock and Essex County Council) initiated an approach of collaboration to develop a long-term place-based growth ambition.
South Essex Joint Strategic Plan.

It is set to deliver a minimum of 90,000 new homes and 52,000 new jobs by 2038.”

Note the date July 2018, well ahead of Household Projection changes, Castle Point leader and ceo, have fully engaged on behalf of Castle Point in this venture, that has also set Housing Figures ahead of the Household Projections, knowing full well that we will not see Highway Infrastructure improvements in the Borough.

Whilst, the 3rd quarter 2018 New House Builds numbers are 15% up on last year, much of this may be influenced by Housing Association involvement in large projects.

Housing associations are involved in a number of big London developments, including Swan Housing Association’s £300m project in Poplar with 1,500 planned homes, half of which are slated as affordable.
Developer Countryside Properties and London & Quadrant (L&Q) Housing Trust have teamed up to redevelop the former Ford factory site in Dagenham with up to 3,000 homes, half of them affordable. Housing associations also play a big part in the north-west of England, where L&Q has gone into partnership with Trafford Housing Trust in Manchester.
Full report HERE.

Castle Point appears to hold more appeal to developers of Market Priced Housing, rather than Affordable builds.

Generally speaking the target of 300,000* new builds per Annum, apart from being an unsubstantiated target, also appears to be out of reach, at least for this year. Whether this is down to the economic background, especially where the current high deposit required for a mortgage is concerned, or the doubts over the Building Industry workforce in the uncertainty over Brexit**, is concerned should not influence to great an extent, the cpbc Local Plan.

What must be considered is how will releasing Green Field land affect the Borough without improved Infrastructure first, as we were promised.

CPBC leader cllr smith said;

Any development has to have infrastructure and that is the whole point of us having control of our plan. All of these issues will be taken into account, when we put forward our plan.” “Roads and the number of homes built are being considered because if we do not do something about it now, the Government will.”

Now it appears, following feedback, there may be little gained by Castle Point Borough council avoiding Intervention!

smiff

  • More about falling short of the 300,000 target by 50,000 HERE
  • More on Brexit and Building workforce HERE

 

 

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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.

Canvey Island Flood Risks – brought to Parliament!

“Planning conditions can be flouted, and they are sometimes not properly enforced.”

Parliament debated “FUTURE FLOOD PREVENTION” and further resources totalling £582,310,000 in the House of Commons on the 27th February.

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EnvAgencyAnglia photo

Photograph courtesy; Environment Agency Anglia; Canvey Island February 2017

Neil Parish opened the debate and mentioned, “One problem is that, if we are not careful, people living in an area with a “one in 100 years” risk which is flooded are inclined to think that they will be safe from floods for another 99 years. Of course, that is not the case. An area with a high flood risk will continue to have that risk until better defences are created or resilience measures are introduced, and it will probably always be a pretty high-risk area.”

His reference to “1 in 100 years risk”, and peoples understanding of it, indicates how slowly changes are put in place. This was one of the recommendations following the Report and Review into the Canvey Island Flooding of 2014, that a more straight forward and easier description of flood risk was brought into use!

“The report states that firefighters provide a vital “first-line service” to flooded areas”

Strange then that they were discontinued as statutory consultees in the planning process locally, after continually stating they were only able to guarantee a response during a life or death situation due to a lack of resources. It is hard to imagine, following the fire and rescue service cut backs of late, that they are better placed now to become a fully effective “first-line service”!

Castle Point MP Rebecca Harris participated in the debate. However some of what she said appeared to expand the theory, long spun amongst residents, that our defences are impenetrable. Our sea defences do not compare with the Netherlands and are indeed liable to over-topping in parts under certain conditions (cpbc SFRA 2010).

Although Canvey Island is defended to a high standard of protection, it is at risk should there be a flood defence failure. This residual flood risk should be considered, as although the likelihood of it (flood defence failure) occurring is low, the consequences should it happen would be very high.

Referring to the evacuation of Jaywick, whilst Canvey Island residents were considered safe, suggests that an evacuation of Canvey Island was possible. The potential time required, upto 19+ hours, would make this unlikely, and in the event of a Breach, impossible.

One thing that requires clarity is, given the extraordinary amount of work already carried out across Canvey Island, whether the request to Government for £24,500,000 required to repair our broken drainage system still stands. All appears to have become silent following cpbc representatives being told to return with specific details of work necessary and estimates of costings to evidence the sums requested.

Nevertheless to have our MP stand in Parliament to put forward the issues of the Flood Risks to Canvey Island, and the level of work needed to simply maintain the drainage system, can be no bad thing.

Rebecca Harris, Castle Point

“The financing of flood defences is of absolutely paramount importance to my constituents, as my borough has been hit by flooding on a number of occasions, most notoriously the devastating North sea flood of 1953, which breached the old Canvey Island sea wall defences and caused the loss of life of 58 residents and the evacuation of the entire remaining population. To avert a similar catastrophe, the island is now protected by a concrete wall that runs along its entire 28 km to protect the population of 40,000 from tidal surges. This wall is still judged to be good for a one-in-1,000-years event. I note that the residents of Canvey Island were not encouraged to evacuate because of a threatened tidal surge when those of Jaywick were. The wall is judged to be sound right up until the end of this century provided that there is regular monitoring and maintenance. The concern of my residents is to ensure that the money is always there to make sure that we are upgrading the maintenance.

Notwithstanding how good the sea walls are, Canvey Island and other parts of my borough, including South Benfleet and Hadleigh, still remain subject to a serious risk of surface water flooding, as occurred dramatically in the summer of 2013 and again in 2014, when homes right across the borough were flooded, including 1,000 homes on the island alone. Despite the great sea defences, this is a serious problem for an island that remains 1 metre below sea level at high tide and is entirely flat. It presents a particular problem for effective surface water drainage. There was an absolute outcry in 2014 at the second significant flooding event in less than 11 months. That led to calls for an investigation into whether this could be dismissed as a mere act of God or whether much more serious defects in the water management system were at fault, and what measures were needed to be put in place to assure residents that it would not occur again. I was extremely grateful to the then Cabinet Office Ministers and Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, who agreed to an investigation by the Government chief scientist, Sir Mark Walport, to establish the facts and make recommendations for the various agencies locally. His report found that the coincidence of extreme rainfall, problems with the performance of the drainage system, a power cut, and pumps overheating and tripping out were all foreseeable, although unusual, and many could be avoided in future. Sir Mark made a number of recommendations, the majority of which, I am pleased to say, have already been acted on.

Since those last floods, an extraordinary amount of work has taken place right across Castle Point, with considerable amounts of money spent on improvements and mitigation measures. The Environment Agency has invested large sums in improvements to its eight sluices and 13 pumping stations. In this financial year alone, it has invested over £500,000, including £89,000 on the Benfleet and East Haven barriers, which are key to protecting South Benfleet as well as the island. Webcams have been installed to monitor pumps and ditches. Some £620,000 has been spent on refurbishing 28 floodgates, and the remaining six will be completed by the end of this year.

The county council and Anglian Water have worked hard to map the drainage network underground and to make thousands of repairs and remove blockages in the system, as well as identifying the most serious faults. Anglian Water has invested millions since 2014 and has also been highly proactive in a public awareness campaign locally to raise the critical importance of maintaining free-flowing water courses. The county council is undertaking a huge rolling programme of property-level protection, with grants of up to £5,000 for homes affected by flooding previously.

The improved partnership working of Essex County Council, Anglian Water, the Environment Agency and the Essex fire and rescue service, as recommended by the chief scientist, is exemplary and has even resulted in a national award. Although the investigation focused on the island, improvements in multi-agency co-operation have had real benefits for the entire borough and it is now an exemplar for the rest of the UK.

The partnership has concluded a comprehensive urban drainage study of the problems underground and to model any future problems, to help make sure that this does not happen to my borough again. Proposals include the creation of additional storage ditches on roadsides and open areas, green roofs, water butts, porous paving and increased pipe sizes. It will shortly submit bids for some of those projects to the South East local enterprise partnership and central Government.

Previously, DEFRA Ministers have supported our bids. I hope that the Government will continue that support, acknowledge the economic importance of those bids and stress, not only to my LEP but to others, the importance of flood alleviation schemes in ensuring that communities remain economically viable. It is absolutely essential for the continued economic regeneration of my borough that it is recognised as protected from non-tidal surface water, as well as from tidal flood risk, especially given the increased likelihood of future events.

My borough is grateful for the introduction of the Flood Re scheme, which means that residents are not priced out of insuring their homes. It is not, however, available to businesses in my area. I hope that more work can be done in that regard, because a lot of them suffer great hardship. Nor does the scheme apply to new builds. I urge the Government to do more to ensure that there is better defence of our floodplains from developers and to press planning departments to incorporate more surface water mitigation for developments. Perhaps they could even reverse developers’ current right to connect surface water to the sewerage system, as it does not incentivise them to consider sustainable drainage systems.

I am conscious that time is short, so I will end by encouraging the Minister to visit Castle Point, if she can find the time in her diary, to see the incredible work that has been done in Benfleet and on Canvey Island, and to meet local agencies to discuss what more is needed and how we can further help the borough.”

Hansard’s record of the full debate can be reached HERE.

 

Time to brief our MP? Canvey Island at the forefront of Flooding Issues, whilst CPBC covers up?

The National Flood Forum tweeted

“A great opportunity to get communities’ flooding issues debated. Time to brief your MP and ask them to participate.”

This was the Forum’s reaction to an announcement by The House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee:-

We’ve secured a debate in the Chamber on 27 Feb, pending the House’s agreement tonight, with on our flooding Reports

Regarding the now regular Flooding Events that occur in the UK, much has been spoken, reported and recorded. Monies have been promised and Budgets have been set.

Nothing matches the Flooding Prevention approach and outlay committed in the Netherlands.

However locally in Castle Point, the situation appears worse still.

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There exists what may be a false sense of security concerning the perceived infallibility of the Sea Defences. The seeds of apathy have manifested from residents being comforted by the Defences being the very “best in the Country”!

The Environment Agency’s view regarding the Canvey Sea Defences is;

” Although Canvey Island is defended to a high standard of protection, it is at risk should there be a flood defence failure. This residual flood risk should be considered, as although the likelihood of it occurring is low, the consequences should it happen would be very high.”

Climate Change and Rising Sea Levels mean that the Sea Defences will require improvements to the current standards before the year 2100.

In February 2015 a Commons Select Committee conceded;

“The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee queries Government plans to attract £600 million from external funders to bolster flood defences. In its report on Defra Performance in 2013-14, the cross-party Committee cites low levels of private funding attracted to date as a cause for concern about ambitious future plans.”

This matter was tentatively raised, and disputed by the applicant, during the Thorney Bay Application in Principle to redevelop the Caravan Park. A sum of around £100,000 was suggested as being appropriate contribution towards the necessary future Sea Defence Improvements by the applicant.

Since then, enquiries by the Canvey Green Belt Campaign group have revealed that Castle Point Council officers concede they have no mechanism in place for the collection of such Funds. Consequently no request towards the necessary external funding has been made by cpbc during the consideration of the application for the First Phase of the Thorney Bay development!

This further undermines the attempts by Defra and the Government to implement the Aspirations of the TE2100 (Thames Estuary) Plans for Canvey Island.

The Surface Water Flooding of Canvey Island during 2013 and 2014 were severe enough to warrant the Government Office for Science to undertake a Peer review of Essex County Council’s report on the Canvey Island flooding in July 2014.

The Government Office for Science Peer Review can be found HERE.

The Essex County Council Report into Canvey Island Flooding 2014 can be found HERE.

The Environment Agency consider the Canvey Island Drainage System as being “complicated”.

It is reliant on Gravity, as the Island is so flat, for water to reach the Pumps that are installed to transfer surface water to the Thames Estuary.

These pumps will not cope with the levels of water should there be Tidal Flooding, and failed during the 2014 Flooding event, requiring improvements to the mechanisms.

Maintenance is a continual requirement to Drains and Ditches. The Environment Agency and Essex County Highways division are affected by ongoing budget constraints, meaning Maintenance may be insufficient at any particular time.

These issue were all revealed during the report and enquiry following the 2014 flooding.

Alongside the Essex County Council Report and the Government Office for Science Peer Review, Castle Point Council’s Scrutiny Committee held a series of meetings during 2014 and earl 2015, to investigate the effects, the impact, the response and the causes of the Canvey Island Surface Water Flooding event.

The Castle Point Council Scrutiny Committee’s Report into the Canvey Island Flooding of 2014 remains Unpublished!

The Castle Point Council Webcasts of the Scrutiny Committee meetings are now unavailable!

Neither the Essex County Council Report into the Canvey Island Flooding of 2014, nor the Government Office for Science Peer Review are included within the cpbc Local Plan2016 Evidence Base! 

The Canvey Island Integrated Urban Drainage Study, is included in the cpbc Local Plan2016 Evidence Base in the form of a desk top published aspirational leaflet!

No Fund gathering mechanism is in place to collect the required External Funding for the future improvements of the Canvey Sea Defences.

In response to the National Flood Forum’s suggestion “Time to brief your MP and ask them to participate,” there appears plenty of concerns for our Local representatives to be lobbying our MP Rebecca Harris to participate over!

Canvey Flooding, safe escape route too Congested?

Canvey residents are often questioned whether they are scaremongering when they express concerns over flooding and emergency issues. Now we learn through the Echo that CPBC’s own emergency planner has expressed concern that both the Environment Agency and the Lead Local Flood Authority remain concerned over potential flooding issues at Persimmon’s proposed development at the Dutch Village Canvey.

Floods 2014 pic via Police Helicopter

View of Canvey Island flooding from Police Helicopter July 2014

This apparent “good news” must be treated with some caution as the developer appears confident that the concerns can all be addressed.

The cpbc emergency planner has requested a copy of the evacuation plan, although a copy can be found on the cpbc planning portal.

Extracts from the developer Persimmon’s emergency Evacuation Plan may be of interest;

“The developer’s reasonability (Freudian slip, perhaps?) will end upon completion of the construction of the site.”

“Residents should remain in their dwellings until the emergency services or statutory bodies have advised that it is safe to leave. This could be for a pre-longed period of time (days rather than hours).”

“Whilst occupants can potentially remain at the site services such as water supply, sewerage, electricity and gas will be affected in the area and occupants are unlikely to be able to use these facilities”

The “Safe Escape Route” is indicated as being via Canvey Road to Waterside Roundabout and onto Canvey Way.

It has already been assessed, although not included within the Local Plan Evidence base, that an Evacuation of Canvey Island might take 19 hours.

The continued development in areas prone to flooding is an abuse, by developers and local authorities of the Flood RE insurance scheme.

Surely the continued intention of castle point council to increase the numbers of people at Risk of Flooding must be considered unacceptable.

rebecca_harris_mp_flood_free_homes

Echo newspapers coverage can be viewed via this LINK.

Home Builders Federation Vindicate Castle Point Council’s Protection of its Green Belt!

Writing specifically about Castle Point Green Belt, the Home Builders Federation (HBF) representative has given both credence and support to Castle Point MP  Rebecca Harris, CPBC council leaders and the canvey island independent party, in their insistence that the Borough’s Green Belt need not be developed.

Suggesting it is not a decision for land owners or developers the HBF, in respect of the CPBC Local Plan2016, consider that;

“The decision to release land from the green belt, or not, or how much, is ultimately a political decision for the Council. The only thing we would argue is that if the Council exercises its legitimate political right to safeguard the green belt (so reflecting the wishes of its residents) it would need to amend the introduction to the plan and Objective 6 so that it provides a truer reflection of the consequences of this decision (see our representations above). As we have observed above, the requirement of 100 dpa is very much lower than the net affordable housing need which has been assessed to be 298 dpa, and the overall need of 400 dpa. The Plan would therefore need to be more honest and say that some households with housing needs will not be accommodated.”

So apart from the LP2016 requiring some alteration to inject some honesty, the decision to go ahead and submit the Plan to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government for independent Examination appears to be justified.

This may cause some temporary embarrassment to critics who have suggested otherwise.

Furthermore the HBF appear to be more than supportive of Cllr Dick and Cllr Skipp’s motion to include the release of the land known as the Blinking Owl site, or H11, within the sites available for release in support of Housing Supply during the Local Plan’s term.

The HBF recognise that H11 has, in local development terms, huge potential.

HBF suggests;

“Policy H11: Area of Search and Safeguarded Land – North West Thundersley
The policy is unsound in part 3 because it is unjustified.
As a rule we do not comment on site specifics.

However, in view of the size of the unmet need, we would question the appropriateness of part 3 of the policy which identifies 104.2ha of land for release from the Green Belt to support housing development post-2031.

If the land is suitable for development and capable of being developed for housing before 2031, then it could be released as part of this Local Plan to help close the gap between the housing need and supply.”

Good road access, infrastructure and amenities are required for such a large Housing Supply potential at the H11 site.

As Essex County Council have submitted evidence towards the Local Plan2016 consultation and have stated their opposition to making provision for the site’s road access, it is reasonable that they should be open to some heavy criticism if they are judged as being un-cooperative within the Duty to Cooperate!

 

You gotta have Faith! We can all dream, only the few can deliver!

Whilst the Castle Point Council Local Plan is in a short state of flux, until the 24th January 2016 I believe, it is worth re-visiting the statement issued by our MP that binds our local authority to saving the Borough’s Green Belt from further development.

The release read;

Wednesday, 24 June, 2015

The Government Planning Minister Brandon Lewis MP confirmed once and for all that under this government the Borough Council does have the power to protect Green Belt in it’s local plan.

In a meeting in the House of Commons with senior local councillors and planning officers arranged by local MP Rebecca Harris, the Minister confirmed that Green Belt is a legitimate constraint on the level of housing that the council has to plan for and that they do not have to alter the borough’s Green Belt boundaries to accommodate more housing.

Castle Point Council has been constructing a New Local Plan since 2012 and is considering how much new housing the borough will need over the next fifteen years and where they should be built.

Council Leader Colin Riley said:

“This is exactly the reassurance we were looking for. As a Council we have to take into account all relevant planning law and policy when we make our local plan, but we can now explore the policies designed to protect Green Belt with confidence.

“As a council we are determined to construct a sound local plan that provides for our borough’s future whilst also listening to the concerns of the residents we are elected to serve.”

Local MP Rebecca, who arranged for the Minister to meet local Green Belt groups before the general election, said:

“Brandon repeated exactly what he said to local Green Belt campaigners a few months ago. Councillors and officers can now be in absolutely no doubt that they have the power to protect our borough’s precious undeveloped Green Belt in their local plan. They will need to alter the draft plan and argue their case well, but I am confident they can do it and I will give them every support.”

Well beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I would suggest that what some people hold as precious can differ greatly from others.

That our Council Leader has suggested that the local authority will be looking to provide for the Borough’s future, this can only in part mean providing housing for those in need and maintaining local facilities. Most recently has seen the Deanes School being recommended for closure due to lack of numbers, it was noted that little weight was given for future housing  being a reason for ECC to keep the school open.

The Leader also states that the LA are now in a position to respond to residents concerns who they are elected to serve.

This is of great comfort for those residents in Canvey West ward who having supported Cllr Howard for over the last 40 years have been treated abysmally by Castle Point Council where proposing development through the Local Plan process has been concerned.

Those of us that have followed the CPBC Scrutiny process of the 2014 surface water flooding of Canvey Island, are aware that the long overdue report into CPBC’s failings during that event, amounts to a cover up!

It is clear the dense over development of the flood plain of Canvey Island has greatly contributed to the level of distress and damage. Should Canvey land that acts as a flood dispersment area alleviating the level of flooding also be considered as Precious?

Will Green Belt land that has had some level of development either housing or business be treated differently or similarly.

Or will political pressure help make the sensitive site selection decision making easier?

Those of us on Canvey have noted the invitation to attend meetings with Secretary of State’s and Councillor groups not being volunteered to us. That is of little consequence. We are, and I know this does not sit easily with some other campaign groups, content that as long as we receive a fair hearing from an Inspector, able to live with the fact that housing is necessary and if Canvey Green Belt sites offer the best most sustainable sites then so be it.

It is the unreasonable factors that have previously influenced the housing distribution that will require elimination.

We were warned in the very early days of our campaign to save Canvey Green Belt that it was not enough to simply say “we don’t want development” and expect to be successful. Well I think we have not done too badly in the face of an Inspector so far! Whether other site campaigners can look deep into their objections and claim the same, I have not examined.

The Canvey Island Independent Party, have received much criticism of late, whether this is warranted is of their concern alone. They have made clear to us their policy on Green Belt and I have been reassured it remains unaltered.

Also receiving much criticism of late is Cllr Smith and yet only this year in May, he was re-elected. We campaigners can be sensitive and inward looking. Cllr Smith may well turn to his being re-elected to suggest he has a mandate to continue with his work on the current Plan version. He of course requires support from his councillor colleagues to perform this.

Blind-leading-the-blind

Canvey’s Green Belt is threatened by Industrial development by the London Group and Persimmon’s. What can be the driver for Persimmon to be so active on Canvey when they have far more lucrative proposals off of the Island? Has a deal behind the scenes been done that moves them to spend time and money on their Dutch Village proposal?

Come the emergence of a new, new Plan will their focus alter, why would they wish to expose their finances to an area liable to flood and within the Calor Hazard range?

Will the developers interested in the Bowers Road site accept that their site be removed from the housing allocation whilst possibly the Blinking Owl site is introduced?

What sites will need to be included in the 5 year supply to meet the Inspector’s expectation?

We must expect Councillors to respond to residents expectations, having said that we must not be surprised if an Inspector disagrees. Previously the Inspector stated clearly he was nor prepared to select sites on behalf of the Council. In the first instance this time around we can expect the same. There will only then be one opportunity. Under close challenge from developers a result suggesting sites are unlikely to come forward in realistic timing an Inspector may adopt a different stance.

We wish Cllr Bill Dick well with his Local Plan debate amendment. We expect councillors to pledge their support.

We also look forward to an emerging Local Plan option to be fair to all residents and not unfairly influenced by powerful local factors leading to an unsustainable Local Plan wish list.

What we do know is that if you do not at least try, you cannot hope to succeed. Let’s just hope this time around Canvey is not the sacrificial lamb, that it was tethered out to be on previous occasions!