Tag Archives: Special Case

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

Canvey Island, is synonymous with Flooding.

rebecca_harris_mp_flood_free_homes

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.

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China Crisis = Answer to Canvey Island issues? Or – Castle Point’s Broken Local Plan Process “the continued development of Canvey Island is necessary”???

“The continued development of Canvey Island is necessary to sustain the local community and prevent the social and economic blight of the settlement.”

So say, Castle Point borough council planning officers in their programmed approach to avoiding objections to each and every proposal for development on Canvey Island.

This programmed response, supporting perpetual development, is in respect of evading opposition and objection to the “Special Case” position the officers are ordered to adopt in consideration of Canvey’s Flood Risk Exception test.

Whilst Constraints on development in other areas of the borough are sited and strictly adhered to, as a matter of policy, similar approach to Canvey Island proposals appear less rigorously imposed.

Given that Canvey development should be constrained by the fact that the Island is a tidal Flood Risk Zone 3a area, is now deemed a Critical Drainage Area following the surface water flooding during 2014 and previously, as well as being the location of 2 Top Tier Comah hazardous industrial sites.

That there is only one access / egress point, that the Island’s dedicated Rapid Response (paramedic) Vehicle is being withdrawn and that, like other areas the Police and the Fire and Rescue service presence has diminished.

These factors, one would think given Canvey Island’s geographical position, may cause outsiders to wonder why castle point borough council planning department should be so manipulative, when they recite such Unsound Drivel as “the continued development of Canvey Island is necessary to sustain the local community and prevent the social and economic blight of the settlement”!

Higher up the local government ladder the planning department superiors have indentified in contrast, that on tidal Flood Risk alone, they consider that the population of Canvey Island should be limited to the level prior to 2011, OR LESS!

However cpbc Cabinet, Councillors, Officers and Planners ALL choose to ignore this apparently sensible and cautious approach to Housing Numbers, one can only assume, so as to limit the levels of apparently necessary, but unpopular, Housing Need elsewhere in the Borough!

Now whilst our local “public servants” propose and impose yet more development, both Housing and Industrial, onto Canvey Island under the pretext that, “the continued development of Canvey Island is necessary to sustain the local community and prevent the social and economic blight of the settlement” they would do well to appreciate what is going on far from here.

Local decision makers, in their desperation to support the Borough’s income stream and limit the perceived Housing Need on the mainland, are willing to overlook potential Hazards and Constraints that should, by Rights, limit the ever-increasing Canvey Island Population Growth, through the means of our broken Local Plan process!

This Blindfolded and Wreckless approach to Development Planning on Canvey Island, has directly led to the flooding of many properties during 2013 / 2014, and is continued unabated, despite the clear warning towards adoption of a more cautious approach following the Calor escape of 163 tonnes of liquified gas forming a  vapour cloud over the Island!

Whilst the efforts of the Essex Fire and Rescue Service to convince cpbc members that their vastly reduced level of cover for Canvey Island would be adequate in the event of a major accident at either of the 2 Hazardous sites, their claim should not serve as supporting evidence for continually increasing the Population of Canvey.

Castle Point, we believe, would be totally justified in adopting a Limited Population Approach to its Housing Supply through its Local Plan Process, especially where Canvey Island is concerned.

This approach would be fully justified and would protect local builders and developers alike.

An ever-increasing population has little or no justification in any of the reasons recited by cpbc in its flimsy evidence to direct the levels of development growth towards Canvey Island, indicated in their various versions of failed Local Plans .

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It is Amazing then to discover that a Far Eastern Country should have adopted a Plan that puts concerns for its Population and Environment first, by recognising the Need to Limit Population Levels.

Whilst we do not compare the population levels of Shanghai and Canvey Island, it does indicate that limiting population, rather than the contrived reasoning behind the proposal for the ever-increasing population numbers policy, as applied by Castle Point Council Strategic and Local Planners!

 “China’s financial hub of Shanghai will limit its population to 25 million people by 2035 as part of a quest to manage “big city disease”, authorities have said.

The State Council said on its website late on Monday the goal to control the size of the city was part of Shanghai’s masterplan for 2017-2035, which the government body had approved.
“By 2035, the resident population in Shanghai will be controlled at around 25 million and the total amount of land made available for construction will not exceed 3,200 square kilometres,” it said.
State media has defined “big city disease” as arising when a megacity becomes plagued with environmental pollution, traffic congestion and a shortage of public services, including education and medical care.

But some experts doubt the feasibility of the plans, with one researcher at a Chinese government thinktank describing the scheme as “unpractical and against the social development trend”.
Migrant workers and the city’s poor would suffer the most, predicted Liang Zhongtang last year in an interview with state media, when Shanghai’s target was being drafted.

The government set a similar limit for Beijing in September, declaring the city’s population should not exceed 23 million by 2020. Beijing had a population of 21.5 million in 2014. Officials also want to reduce the population of six core districts by 15% compared with 2014 levels.
To help achieve this goal authorities said in April some government agencies, state-owned companies and other “non-core” functions of the Chinese capital would be moved to a newly created city about 100 kilometres south of Beijing.
An exact date for when those offices will have to move has not been set, but Beijing officials have already begun reshaping the city’s population.

Tens of thousands of migrant workers were evicted from their homes beginning in November, after authorities launches a 40-day crackdown on unsafe buildings in the wake of a fire.
Many of China’s biggest cities also face surging house prices, stirring fears of a property bubble. Beijing and Shanghai have enacted strict rules on who can purchase property and the two cities are the most vulnerable if prices begin to tumble.
Shanghai had a permanent population of 24.15 million at the end of 2015, the official Xinhua news agency said last year.
The city has also said it would intensify efforts to protect the environment and historic sites as part of its masterplan.” *

As a further reminder, we make no apologies for reminding readers of the devastating effects on households Hazardous Accidents have the potential to cause, as seen in this Video recording.

Grateful thanks go to Ian Silverstein for use of his video.

*Report filed for the Guardian by; Benjamin Haas in Hong Kong and agencies
@haasbenjamin
Tue 26 Dec ‘17
Reuters contributed to this report

And for those who have read this far, here is a link to some music – China Crisis’ recording of “Wishful Thinking”.

We thought the title appropriate!

Canvey Island and the Scrutiny of The RISING TIDE of FLOOD RISK!

We were present to witness Essex County Council Highways representative, holding his hands up in apology for his agency’s failure to carry out adequate drainage clearance, leading up to the Canvey Island flooding during the summer of 2014.

He made a promise, in public during the Castle Point Council Scrutiny meeting into the causes of the 2014 floods, that this would not happen again and that regular maintenance would be carried out so as to prevent a repetition of the Surface Water Flooding that so many residents suffered.

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Canvey residents are now seeing that words are cheap, and the results of the continued lack of ECC Regular Drainage Maintenance allowing drains and road gullies to become silted up. The previous regime of maintenance, in which operatives will attend if residents make repeated calls for action, appears to remain the norm!

This is asking for trouble on a basically flat Island with a “complicated” drainage system reliant on gravity to feed water to the pumping system.

Climate Change deniers amongst those in positions within local authorities, are blind to the changing weather patterns and rising sea levels. They abstain from making difficult decisions on the Distribution of Housing Growth, and delay from investing adequate resources in Flood Defences, compare Dutch standards with our own.

Human nature directs them to rely on the chances of a Flooding Event occurring is less likely than, more likely. A Carry on Building Regardless policy, with increasing population being put at Risk!

And yet these local decision-makers should know full well that the insurance umbrella by the name of FLOOD Re, will NOT cover dwellings built since January 2009!

FLOOD Re representatives explained that their product was not intended to encourage development within Flood Risk areas, quite the opposite, it was intended to encourage more sensible and safer development site selection.

“Historical data shows that the proportion of residential properties located in an area previously subject to a flood event was on average 5% per local authority in England and Wales.

The question is: why, when most experts agree that the number of severe weather incidents is only likely to increase as a result of climate change?”

Unfortunately Local Plan Policies drawn up by Castle Point Council prefer much, much higher percentages than 5% when selecting sites for their Housing Growth Distribution!

Emanuela Barbiroglio writes in her article “The Rising Tide of Flood Risk” for Property Week;

Councils also receive advice from the Environment Agency, which comments on all proposals for major development in areas at medium or high risk of flooding. It says that with the majority of such planning applications its advice is taken on board.

And yet we should all be aware that Castle Point Borough Council have come to an arrangement with the Environment Agency where Canvey Island is considered a “Special Case” where development in a Flood Zone 3 is concerned!

The Environment Agency leave CPBC to take the final decision on concerns over Tidal and Surface Water Flood Risk, and Residents Safety and well being, and the development’s safety are concerned!

Emanuela Barbiroglio’s enlightening article, “The Rising Tide of Flood Risk” can be found via this LINK.

The Canvey Multi Agency dedicated Flood web site can be found via this LINK, although much appears stuck in 2015! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canvey Island, the Development “Special Case” and Castle Point Council Failings!

Of late there have been reasons enough to query the sense in planning to over populate Canvey Island!

Following the “disputed” moratorium of housing development on Canvey, blamed upon the Environment Agency, a successful bid for Canvey Island to be viewed as a “Special Case” was launched.

Below follows the Castle Point committee meeting minutes whereby this cautious approach was over-turned and afterwards comes comment on the possibility of people investing in new properties with the danger of experiencing extremely high flood risk premiums or even finding themselves unable to secure flood risk cover at all.

We conclude with some Planning guidance that may suggest that development on Flood Zones and indeed in the Green Belt could, indeed should, be avoided.

We hope you find this locally enlightening.

Castle Point Borough Council decision to remove restriction of developing the Zone 3 flood plain of Canvey Island.

PLANNING COMMITTEE MINUTES
6TH FEBRUARY 2007
PRESENT:
Councillors Smith (Vice-Chairman who chaired the meeting), Anderson, Cole, Cross, Dixie, E. Egan, Mrs Goodwin, R.C. Howard, Riley and B.S. Wood
Councillors Mrs Challis Mrs B. Egan, Ladzrie and Mrs Liddiard
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Blackwell, Mrs Iles, Sharp and Mrs J.Govier.
73. PLANNING POLICY STATEMENT 25: DEVELOPMENT & FLOOD RISK
The Committee was informed and discussed the new amended national policy on development and flood risk set out in Planning Policy Statement 25, published in December 2006 which contained new and amended planning policies to mitigate and avoid the impact of flooding through good planning and flood risk management.
The Committee had previously commented on the consultation on the draft PPS 25 at the meeting on 7.2.2006.
The report before the Committee described the structure of PPS 25 which contained five sections covering background; key planning objectives; decision making principles; risk based approach and responsibilities; supported by a further eight annexes.
Members considered the implications for Castle Point arising from PPS25. The new PPS would have a particular bearing on the work for the Local Development Frame work and on the consideration of planning applications.
In terms of planning policy work, a strategic flood risk assessment had been prepared for Thames Gateway South Essex authorities and was to be published by Spring 2007. This would help inform the preparation of the Core Strategy by identifying broad locations within Castle Point and other authorities that would be appropriate locations for development.
In development control and for the purposes of PPS25, Canvey Island was located in Flood Zone 3 (High Probability), because the PPS ignored the presence of existing defences (acknowledged to be some of the most comprehensive in the country). Accordingly the requirement for flood risk assessments to accompany planning applications had also been in place for some time and in particular the application of both the sequential test and the exceptions test.
Planning Committee – 6th February 2007
This initially caused difficulties, particularly for smaller scale development, because of the uncertainty over requirements for these assessments and their relevance and applicability to such schemes. However experience had suggested that through discussion with the Environment Agency, developers, agents and landowners were now clearer about, first the requirements of the these tests, but more importantly, secondly, how to carry out development whilst at the same time mitigating the risk associated with flooding through careful design at the application stage.
Resolved –
1. That the Committee notes the policy guidance and advice of PPS 25.
2. That the Committee have regard to the guidance and advice in the preparation of the Local Development Documents and in the consideration of relevant planning applications, in order to achieve the Council’s community priorities and deliver sustainable development.
Chairman.

However the Insurance Industry does not share the Councils optimism
The short term solution Flood Re is a scheme funded by a levy on insurers that reinsures their customers’ flood risk, allowing them to offer flood insurance to those homes at risk at a more affordable price.
One of the most important aspects of Flood Re is that it provides time for insurers, the government and homeowners to address deficiencies in planning policy, invest in flood defences and improve the resilience of housing stock. The scheme is intended to be operational for 25 years, during which time there will be a role for central and local government, the insurance industry, environmental organisations, housing providers and homeowners in tackling flood risk. After this 25 year period, the Flood Re scheme assumes that improvements in flood resilience, as well as more sophisticated and readily available flood data will leave the insurance industry in a position to offer more affordable cover in a risk-reflective free market.
Properties built since 2009 are not eligible for Flood Re, which in theory should introduce pressure on planners to fully consider flood risk before new homes are built. However there remains a challenge in ensuring that a new property’s flood risk is properly communicated both to the buyer and the insurance industry, so that both parties can avoid any shocks further down the line.
As well as providing a period of breathing space for industry and policymakers, Flood Re also intends to provide a point of focus for the next 25 years, to continue the debate about addressing the root of the environmental and planning issues. But the inescapable realities of climate change, coupled with a seeming lack of a long-term approach to investment in flood defence measures means that the success of these ambitious plans is far from guaranteed.

Planning Guidance tells us that when :

Applying the Sequential Test in the preparation of a Local Plan;
“As some areas at lower flood risk may not be suitable for development for various reasons and therefore out of consideration, the Sequential Test should be applied to the whole local planning authority area to increase the possibilities of accommodating development which is not exposed to flood risk.
More than one local planning authority may jointly review development options over a wider area where this could potentially broaden the scope for opportunities to reduce flood risk and put the most vulnerable development in lower flood risk areas”.
The latest Castle Point Local Plan failed the Duty to Cooperate requirement. The Examining Planning Inspector noted in his failure Report:

Indeed, the officer report of July 2014 which set out the full document representations on the draft New Local Plan (CP/05/008) includes the following as an action point:

Given that the Council has not been able to identify a sufficient supply of housing to meet its objectively assessed needs, it is also necessary to engage with neighbouring authorities under the auspices of the Duty to Cooperate in order to determine how the objectively assessed need for housing, and other strategic matters, will be addressed within the housing market area.

However, notwithstanding the lengthy and detailed engagement across south Essex there is no formal mechanism in place to distribute unmet housing need.

The problem is that this is once again only guidance and we have often been reminded by CPBC planning officers of this fact when they deliberate on planning proposal for Canvey Island.
It would seem that any guidance that has not been fulfilled can be ignored, as far as Canvey Island is concerned, as it is only for consideration purposes.

RECOMMENDATION, – CAUTION! No, the Continued Development of Canvey is Necessary!

In March, this year, Castle Point Borough council cabinet addressed what at the time was one of the hottest topics facing the UK. Termed by our own government as our “broken housing market” invitations went out to consultation on the white paper.

Little can be found, via a general internet search, of castle point council’s response.

Following the “successful” approval of 113 dwellings on Canvey Island, 30% of which fall within what is known as the Calor Gas Hazardous middle zone by the development committee, we were soon all feeling appalled at the scenes of disaster at Grenfell House in Kensington.

Whether it is correct to connect any possible similarity between poorly located housing and a disaster through whatever reasons that come to fruition in a tower block, may be arguable.

However an early suggestion as to the tragedy at Grenfell House suggests “the organisations responsible for maintaining standards in the building industry have been advising contractors not to take the regulations too literally.”  *

Whilst this claim requires some substantiation, the application of the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive’s advice where Canvey Island development is concerned, as applied by Castle point council, equally is in need of some serious scrutiny!

We, ourselves are used to being called scaremongers, but quite possibly so were some concerned residents near Buncefield, and those users reliant of the rail line through Dawlish, where the section of sea wall collapsed under the rail track in 2014, may have also been grateful of a more cautious approach to safety.

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Damage to the railway at Dawlish in Devon

The lack of brownfield land in Castle Point is obvious. It is also reasonable to expect Green Belt to be protected.

However Canvey Island is subject to perverse considerations by Planning Officers, no doubt instructed from above, or to put another way, from back offices and corridors!

Housing on Canvey Island must pass the Sequential and Exception Test (Look it Up yourself!)

This allows development in areas that NOBODY can guarantee safe for the development’s lifetime. You would have to be Psychic!

The excuse, sorry, reason, given is:

“In a very broad sense the continued development of Canvey Island is necessary to sustain the local community and prevent the social and economic blight of the settlement.”

Strange, I have never heard or seen any concern of social and economic blight used to support a Reason to Support development where the mainland is concerned! Remember Deanes School??

But Canvey, don’t forget, is a “Special Case!”

Soon a Brownfield site list of local authority owned land will be compiled, just imagine it; the Paddocks, Canvey police Station, the old council building now Health Centre Long Road etc etc.

It is clear why Canvey is so often selected for development over mainland.

The Island is unsustainable as it is, so to it will be argued is the mainland, but Canvey is the council’s preferred choice.

On 7th February 2017, the Government published a White Paper concerning housing related matters, entitled “Fixing our broken housing market”.

Cabinet Agenda Item7a March 2017:

CPBC intention to respond to “Fixing our broken housing market” Government Consultation on Housing White Paper

The report identifies the problem as threefold – first, not enough local authorities plan for the homes needed, secondly house building is too slow, and thirdly the house building industry is too reliant on a small number of large concerns.

4.4 The report then analyses these issues and brings forward proposals to address them in four chapters;

  1. Planning for the right homes in the right places
  2. Building homes faster
  3. Diversifying the market
  4. Helping people now

Chapter 1 – Planning for the right homes in the right places – brings forward eight proposals;

“Maintaining existing strong protections for the Green Belt, and clarifying that Green Belt boundaries should be amended only in exceptional circumstances when local authorities can demonstrate that they have fully examined all other reasonable options for meeting their identified housing requirements;”

“Giving communities a stronger voice in the design of new housing to drive up the quality and character of new development, building on the success of neighbourhood planning”

“Making more land available for homes in the right places, by maximising the contribution from brownfield and surplus public land, regenerating estates, releasing more small and mediumsized sites, allowing rural communities to grow and making it easier to build new settlements;”

In addition to those general comments the Cabinet is recommended to allow more detailed responses to the 38 questions posed by the White Paper to be issued by the Chief Executive in consultation with the Leader of the Council by the deadline of Tuesday 2nd May 2017.                        (abridged version)

Given cpbc’s previous History where development is concerned, we are left to wonder how seriously the government will take our local authority’s consultation responses. As I have said previously, a quick search for cpbc’s official response fails to be found.

*BBC Newsnight Policy Editor Chris Cook.

Photo: Network Rail Media Centre

Now Claim Canvey Island as being a “Special Case!” Before CPBC Local Plan Revision!

Canvey Island – and – “The Special Case!”

Floods 2014 pic via Police Helicopter

View of Canvey Island flooding from Police Helicopter July 2014

Now, finally, a Court Ruling, relevant to Canvey Island that ALL RESIDENTS should now be seeking answers from those Castle Point Council members, who have long been purporting that, WHERE DEVELOPMENT IS CONCERNED – Canvey should be treated as a “Special Case!”

Shrugs, fob offs and “yes I know” are now no longer sufficient!

Answers are Due Now!

Since the publication of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), the pair of leading cpbc officers, by leading their lesser minnows around by their noses, have recommended Approval of many inappropriate housing proposals for Canvey Island, some on Green Belt and ALL in a Flood Zone!

This under the officers insistance that the NPPF “must be read as a whole”.

Reading the NPPF as a “whole” is fine, PROVIDING it is being read correctly in the first Place!

Below is the relevant court ruling that should arm each and every Canvey Island councillor, and those members with the social conscience to stand as Borough councillors, in a position to influence Planning decisions and Local Plan making, with the tools necessary for a just society.

Yet again we, the Canvey Green Belt Campaign, reproduce and draw your attention to Paragraph 14 and Footnote 9 in particular;

14. At the heart of the National Planning Policy Framework is a presumption in favour of sustainable development, which should be seen as a golden thread running through both plan-making and decision-taking.
For plan-making this means that:

● local planning authorities should positively seek opportunities to meet the development needs of their area;

● Local Plans should meet objectively assessed needs, with sufficient flexibility to adapt to rapid change, unless: – any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in this Framework taken as a whole; or – specific policies in this Framework indicate development should be restricted.    9
For decision-taking this means:

10 ● approving development proposals that accord with the development plan without delay; and

● where the development plan is absent, silent or relevant policies are out-of-date, granting permission unless:  – any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in this Framework taken as a whole; or – specific policies in this Framework indicate development should be restricted.    9

Footnote 9 Reads;

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

The Court Ruling taken directly from the Local Government website Reads:

William Eichler 11 May 2017

Court delivers landmark ruling strengthening hand of local planners

Court delivers landmark ruling strengthening hand of local planners

A council in Cheshire has secured a ‘landmark ruling’ from the Supreme Court that will better protect green areas from speculative housing developments.

Cheshire East Council, along with Suffolk Coastal Council, argued guidance in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was being applied incorrectly.

The case arose from an application by Richborough Estates to build 170 homes on green gap land between Nantwich and Crewe at Willaston, which Cheshire East rejected.

However, the case went to court because the developers argued – drawing on the wording of the NPPF – that in some circumstances relevant policies for the supply of housing should be treated as ‘out of date.’

This they claimed included green gap land protection.

The judges upheld the developers appeal, but ruled that their specific argument was not legitimate.

The court judgement stated: ‘No one would naturally describe a recently approved green belt policy in a local plan as “out of date”, merely because the housing policies in another part of the plan fail to meet the NPPF objectives.’

Cheshire East Council said the judgement strengthened the hand of all local authorities seeking to protect green gap, green belt and other special sites.

‘This is a landmark ruling, achieved by Cheshire East, which will benefit planning authorities and town planners up and down the country,’ said council leader Rachel Bailey.

‘I am proud that this council had the courage to pursue this action.

‘This means that we can now better protect our local communities from speculative, unsustainable development by ensuring a proper approach to the application of planning policies.’

Flood Risk! Canvey Island – The “Special Case,” the Sequential Test and the time to Reconsider!

The Approval of Flats in Canvey Town Centre caused Canvey councillors to mention fears of flooding.

Usually levels of development in areas liable to Flood would be restricted through planning, by consideration of the Sequential Test. This Test proposes that inappropriate development in areas at risk of flooding should be avoided by directing development away from areas at highest risk.

The effect of the policy approach of Castle Point council is to continue to increase the numbers of population at Risk of Flooding on Canvey Island.

CPBC justifies this by suggesting that “Canvey Island is a Distinctive Community. It has specific identified needs in terms of social, economic and physical regeneration, as well as housing.”

The result is that due to the 40% increase in population, since Canvey fell under the control of castle point council, there is a perpetual need for a never ending supply of Housing Development on the Island!

This is regardless that the Need for Housing is calculated as a Borough-wide figure.

The fact that it is admitted that there is “a need to maintain the population living in the flood risk zone at current levels or lower” on Canvey Island, has not deterred a reckless approach to the distribution of Housing Growth by the local authority!

This policy of increasing the numbers of population at Risk of Flooding and the deliberate manipulation of the Sequential Test stems from the efforts to label Canvey Island a “Special Case”!

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.”

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, even for special cases.

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”

Consequently in 2007 a Planning committee meeting considered, and were asked to “Note” the freedoms of decision making that were pleaded for, and “seemingly” allowed by the Environment Agency, in considering Canvey a “Special Case” that has led to the abuse of the levels of development we continue to see proposed.

How things have changed, in such a short space of time!

Since then we have received a concerning Strategic Flood Risk Assessment for Canvey Island in 2010, and suffered two Surface Water Flooding Events during 2013 and 2014!

Whether a Planning committee should have the power to approve such a policy with the potential to impact Canvey Island, or whether members were all actually made aware of the policy’s implications, is dubious to say the least.

Whether the 2007 planning committee meeting decision to allow increasing levels of population at Risk should now be re-considered in the light of the ominous Flood Risk Assessment and the Flooding incidents, appears obvious!

Floods 2014

The Full text of the Echo article can be read HERE.