EAST DEVON DISTRICT COUNCIL PLANNERS RECOMMEND DEVELOPMENT ON HIGH RISK FLOOD ZONES AT WINSLADE PARK, CLYST ST MARY
The latest hybrid planning application (16/2460/MOUT) from Friends Life Limited/Aviva for 150 dwellings, plus employment and new workplace units at Winslade Park is due to be considered by East Devon District Council’s Development Management Committee on 31st October 2017, with the Planning Officers’ Recommendation to the Committee of Approval with Conditions within a 58-page document containing 20 Conditions plus a proposed Viability Legal Agreement.
The outline new build part of the application incorporates very limited information, which the majority of Consultees have found insufficient for making informed decisions and have either recommended refusal (Devon County Highways), have major concerns, find the proposals unacceptable or object (including Historic England, Sport England, the Parish Council, Ward Councillor and East Devon’s Historic Conservation, Landscape, Tree and Environmental Health Departments), plus 225 total objections generated by local residents.
For the existing local community of Clyst St Mary the flood risk is a major concern because historically the Grindle Brook and River Clyst have frequently caused severe damage.
The link below identifies the current flood risk and shows the vulnerability of the Winslade Park site, proving that substantial future flood defences are essential.
East Devon’s planning recommendation states “The access road leading into the site, the area where the offices are proposed and areas of land around the Grindle Brook running through the site fall within flood zones 2 and 3 on the Environment Agency’s mapping system.
The new-build employment units are identified to be located adjacent to the entrance drive, part of this site is within flood zone 2 and a smaller part is in flood zone 3. Whilst it is not best practice to site new buildings in the flood zone, the allocation of the site is constrained by the flood zone(s) and if all buildings were sited outside the flood zone(s) then it is considered that the quantum of development in the allocation could not reasonably be delivered and therefore could affect the viability of the scheme. The employment use would be a less vulnerable use than the residential use and therefore it is less likely to be used/occupied in the event of a flood. Accordingly, it is considered that the proposed location of the employment units (based on the illustrative layout) would be acceptable and is the most appropriate location.”
Although the Environment Agency has been provided with a Flood Risk Assessment, their own website states that “flood defences do not completely remove the chance of flooding and can fail in extreme weather conditions,” leaving future residential and employment users of this site at risk.
Aviva is one of the linked companies associated with this proposed development at Winslade Park. Their Chief Executive, Mark Wilson, was noted for finalising the £5.6 billion acquisition of Friends Life with the resulting merger turning Aviva into one of the UK’s largest investors managing £300 billion plus assets.
Writing in the Telegraph in 2014, he emphasised that there should be a halt on building on “defenceless” flood plains. He stated that “As a nation we need to build more homes, but the cost of development must include the cost of defences. We can’t stop the weather, but we can act in unison to minimise the impact of extreme events and we know that the threat is only going to increase, with scientists predicting greater flood frequency and extreme weather as a result of climate change. Although the current focus for us all is coastal and river flooding, surface water flooding is a major concern. More homes, driveways and car parks all contribute to more water flowing into the system, and flowing quickly.”
He acknowledged that flooding is one of the most traumatic events that any householder or business can face, with families forced out of their homes, valuable and much-loved possessions being ruined and businesses struggling to trade. It can be many months before the drying-out process is completed and subsequent repairs can commence and he understood the emotional cost, trauma and feeling of vulnerability that comes with flooding. His mantra continued “Let’s be crystal clear: no defences, no development.”
Such strong opinions on flooding are applauded and ideally could benefit the development proposals by the Insurance Group for the residential, workplace and community areas at Winslade Park, Clyst St Mary that lie within flood zones!
The accessibility of guarantees for affordable insurance on households and businesses in flood-prone areas is comforting for existing homes and businesses but is East Devon District Council so restricted in the availability of quality development sites throughout their sizeable District that they are left reliant on recommending development on high risk flood zones?