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Environment Agency comment appears to contradict its own findings

2 Comments

Sid Vale Association (SVA) states the evidence (see our earlier post today). Vision Group for Sidmouth (VGS) has added more, as follows:

Objection to Planning Application 16/0669/MOUT

Land at Two Bridges Road, Sidford

Submitted by the Vision Group for Sidmouth, 7th June 2016

The VGS objects to the Planning Application 16/0669/MOUT as it contravenes the following Policies and Strategies in the East Devon Local Plan:

Policy EN21 (River & Coastal Flooding)

The Environment Agency has issued new advice on flooding and development, in the light of new research on climate change:
Big changes are on the way for developers following publication of new Environment Agency guidance on allowing for climate change in flood risk assessment, predicting river flows will double and sea levels will rise by over a metre.
http://www.infrastructure-intelligence.com/article/feb-2016/developers-beware-river-flows-predicted-double?utm_medium=email&utm_source=transactional&utm_campaign=weekly-email

The Environment Agency report Adapting to Climate Change: Advice for Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Authorities, issued on 13th April 2016, states that: This advice should be applied to all future appraisals that are started (new) from March 2016.
For the South West, Peak river flood flow allowances by river basin district use are now predicted to rise by 85% by the 2080s and river flood flow scenarios for each river basin district by 105%.
https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/516116/LIT_5707.pdf

Nevertheless, further to its initial comment of 18th May, the Environment Agency’s Sustainable Places Planning Advisor has submitted a second comment, today 7th June, where they seem to contradict their own findings:

Environment Agency position
‘We have no objections to the application as submitted.
Before determining the application your Authority will need to be content that the flood risk Sequential Test has been satisfied in accordance with current Government guidance within the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) if you have not done so already. As you will be aware, failure of the Sequential Test is sufficient justification to refuse a planning application.
Reasons – Flood Risk
We consider that the submitted FRA is acceptable to accompany an outline planning application. It demonstrates that the proposed development can be designed and laid out so that it will be safe over its lifetime without increasing flood risk elsewhere.
It is proposed to mitigate flood risk by remodelling land adjacent to the watercourse to increase capacity of the flood plain and re-route water away from existing residential development. You may wish to include a planning condition on any permission granted to ensure that this work is implemented as proposed in the FRA.
With regard to the climate change allowances used within the FRA, we are satisfied that the proposed development should not be subject to the higher standards required in the new climate change guidance. This is in accordance our climate change advice issued on 19 February 2016 which advises:
The guidance will come into immediate effect. However, where local plans or development proposals and associated flood risk assessments are well advanced, we would wish to avoid where possible significantly slowing down completion or adding to costs. We will therefore, other than for particularly vulnerable locations or sensitive developments, continue to base our advice on the existing allowances in the following circumstances:
o Where a local plan has been submitted for examination
o Where development proposals are well advanced or where a valid planning application has already been submitted to the local planning authority.
We have also reviewed the flood report provided by Cllr Rixon dated March 2016 and can advise that we are familiar with the flooding referred to therein. We are satisfied that the proposed development will contribute to a reduction in flood risk overall.
https://planning.eastdevon.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=consulteeComments&keyVal=O4A56IGHIJO00&consulteeCommentsPager.page=2

It is clear that the Development Management Committee will have to decide whether or not to agree with the Environment Agency’s Sustainable Places Planning Advisor’s interpretation of the Environment Agency’s own guidance.

Nevertheless, it is the understanding of the VGS that no allowances can or should be made with regard to this planning application:

> It is evident that this is a particularly vulnerable location and is a sensitive development. As of 7th June, of the 29 consultees, 12 have responded so far, most of whom have objected; of the 74 respondees, all but one have objected.

> The valid planning application had been submitted to the local planning authority well after the Environment Agency issued its own climate change advice on 19th February 2016.

> The proposed development might well contribute to a reduction in flood risk overall in the immediate future. But it is clear from the latest data provided by the Environment Agency that river flows will double over the following decades – and this must be taken into account when considering this application.

> The wider infrastructure industry clearly considers that the impact of the Environment Agency advice will be considerable – as quoted in the introduction above: http://www.infrastructure-intelligence.com/article/feb-2016/developers-beware-river-flows-predicted-double?utm_medium=email&utm_source=transactional&utm_campaign=weekly-email

It is clear, therefore, that the application contravenes East Devon Local Plan Policy EN21 (River & Coastal Flooding), in that the development should not be permitted, as the FRA no longer takes into account the substantial increase in flood risk over the coming decades and fails to demonstrate that the development will be safe, without increasing flood risk elsewhere and, where possible, will reduce flood risk overall.

Following the advice from the Environment Agency, it is clear that the application contravenes other Policies and Strategies in the East Devon Local Plan, including:

Strategy 3 – To reduce the risk of flooding, as granting planning permission for this application would fail to meet the Target for Strategy 3: Reduction in the number of permissions granted contrary to the advice of the Environment Agency

Strategy 5 – Environment, as the proposals do not now include Making use of and protecting from development areas that are vulnerable to surface water runoff and flooding.

Strategy 6 – Development within Built-Up Area Boundaries, as the proposed development would in fact adversely affect risk of flooding.

17 Climate Change and Renewable Energy (17.4), as the proposed development now fails to respond to the increased risk of flooding.

22 The Natural and Historic Environment: Flooding and Flood Prevention (22.29), as the current proposals fail properly to consider the impact of flooding on future development and the impact that development could have on patterns of flooding elsewhere; and fail to take into account that Climate change may lead to increased risks of flooding over the lifetime of new developments.

On these grounds, the Vision Group for Sidmouth objects to the planning application 16/0669/MOUT

Jeremy Woodward
on behalf of the Vision Group for Sidmouth
7th June 2016

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2 thoughts on “Environment Agency comment appears to contradict its own findings

  1. I have just tried to see the planning application for this on the EDDC site, I.e. 16/0669/Mout Land at Two Bridges and it came back – nothing identified. Please can you help! Why is this happening!

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