Agenda item

Land South Of, Bridge Lane, Wimblington
Erect up to 88 dwellings (outline application with matters committed in respect of access)

To determine the application.


As Councillor Mrs Davis was unable to Chair this item due to being predetermined, it was proposed by Councillor Mrs French, seconded by Councillor Miscandlon and agreed that Councillor Skoulding chair the meeting for this application.


Gavin Taylor presented the report to members.


Members received a written representation, from Councillor John Clark, a District Councillor, read out by Member Services.


Councillor Clark stated that he used to work for R H Palmer some 50 years ago so is known to the family, but has no pecuniary or non-pecuniary interest in this application.  He informed members that at the start of his career he served an apprenticeship in the village of Wimblington and had cycled, motor cycled and driven past this site regularly, with him never seeing the site flooded or any water issues, which is reflected in the site being in the Environment Agency’s lowest category and not within a flood zone.  He added that he also sits on the Internal Drainage Board and the reaches and cleaning of those waterways has been addressed with the adjacent development.


Councillor Clark made the point that Conservatives aim to address the shortage of housing and, in his view, this application provides family housing plus 22 affordable homes and he would be disappointed if the affordable homes were not delivered.  He stated that the application, having family living in the village with three children, would support the local school and services and provide family housing to enable young people who wish to stay in the village, but would otherwise not be able to afford to do so.


Councillor Clark asked members to support the application.


Members received a presentation, in accordance with the public participation procedure, from Rhian Freear, an objector.


Ms Freear stated that she is pleased care and attention has been given to flooding issues, but is concerned that some of the other issues have fallen by the wayside.  She questioned why comments from the public are asked for when, in this case, the strength of opposition to this development seems to have been ignored.


Ms Freear understands that there is a need for housing in Fenland, but they are already over the required number in Wimblington so she feels there are other sites in Fenland that can satisfy this need.  She stated that if she were able to she would ask the Middle Level representative what greenfield drainage means and if this is a greenfield drainage site and she is dismayed to read in the report that Anglian Water and Cambridgeshire County Council are saying there have been no reports of flooding problems since 2008 when a number of residents reports have been made as recently as 24 December 2020.


Ms Freear expressed the view that she cannot see how 88 houses will fit on the land, with her being suspicious that when it comes to a viability study, especially due to the rising costs of materials due to Covid and Brexit, the developer will drop the promise of affordable housing for the site and requested a cast iron guarantee that this would not be the case.  She referred to two years ago it was put out for developers and agents to come forward with sites and 12 months ago for more sites to come forward and asked why this development has appeared to jump the queue and is being considered in advance of other sites.


Ms Freear stated that she is astounded by the apparent contradiction between this application and other planning applications, with some reasons for refusal having been “the development proposed would fail to respect the existing character of the residential development present in x location and would result in a cramped oppressive form of development that has a detrimental effect on the character of the area where it is located”.  She expressed the opinion that if 88 houses being built on a piece of agricultural land that leads to a quiet and peaceful lane is not an oppressive form of development that will have a detrimental effect on the character of the area then she does not know what is.


Ms Freear referred to Policy LP16 of the Local Plan, which “requires development proposals to deliver and protect high quality environments throughout the district.  Proposals must demonstrate that they make a positive contribution to the local distinctiveness and character of the area enhancing their local setting and both responding to and improving the character of the local built environment whilst not adversely impacting on the street scene, settlement pattern or landscaping character of the surrounding area”.  She feels the development of the site would result in significant urbanisation of this section of Bridge Lane and that the development proposals put forward for consideration are stark, overbearing and would have a detrimental impact on the existing character of the area contrary to Policy LP16. 


Ms Freear expressed the opinion that the residents of Bridge Lane, particularly those whose houses are closest to this development, would be trapped in between new development, surrounding them from all sides and she feels the residents would all argue strongly that the proposal would be a stark and overbearing development that would adversely impact the street scene and landscape character of the area.  In her view, it does appear that the requirements of Policy LP16 are considered for some applications but not this one.


Members asked questions of Ms Freear as follows:

·         Councillor Mrs French asked who the flooding in 2020 was reported to?  Ms Freear responded that she was not subject to flooding, she is a representative for Bridge Lane and it was to Anglian Water.  Councillor Mrs French said she was the County Council’s co-ordinator for flooding across the District and Wimblington was not one of them.  Ms Freear stated that she only mentioned the County Council as in the report it says no reports had been made to Anglian Water and the County Council.  Ms Freear referred to one instance where a 78 year old resident was outside his home at 11pm on Christmas Eve bucketing out his drains as foul drainage was coming up into his house.

·         Councillor Benney asked Ms Freear if she was a resident or just a representative.  Ms Freear responded that she is a resident of Bridge Lane, but has not had flooding problems.  Councillor Benney asked how many dwellings were affected by the flooding in December and how many were nearly flooded?  Ms Freear stated that the problem is not with water coming off the proposed site, but it is the capacity of the foul drainage as it was coming through residents’ toilets into their houses.  She is not sure how many houses were affected, but it was at least four, with residents concerned about the over-stretching of the drainage as since the Nursery Gardens site has been built there has been more problems with drainage.

·         Councillor Booth asked if there had been other instances with foul drainage problems?  Ms Freear responded that the heavy rainfall on 24 December was the only time there has been a problem with foul drainage.  She stated that residents are not saying houses will be under water, but development is affecting people’s homes and they do not know the reasons why it is happening, with not enough investigation made on foul drainage.


Members received a presentation, in accordance with the public participation procedure, from Richard Mowatt and Gavin Shepherd, on behalf of the applicant.


Mr Mowatt made the point that at the previous committee in July the application was deferred for drainage issues only and surface and foul water drainage will be dealt with by Gavin Shepherd.  He stated that the proposed development will deliver 66 market and 22 new affordable homes, with no affordable homes having been flooded in March or Wimblington in the last 3 years. 


Mr Mowatt expressed the opinion that provision of these affordable homes will meet some of the existing housing need, with the scheme having been designed to be policy compliant and sustainable and there are no outstanding technical objections from officers or statutory consultees, including Anglian Water, the IDB and Lead Local Flood Authority.  He feels the benefits of this development are far reaching, especially in terms of the 25% of new homes being affordable, which exceeds by 5% the affordable housing requirement identified in the Council’s own viability assessment.


Mr Mowatt expressed the view that the applicant’s own robust viability assessment evidences Section 106 contributions of £2,843 per dwelling, with this money directed towards early years and secondary education and has been accepted by Cambridgeshire County Council.  He stated that, notwithstanding the increase in materials, the applicant has committed to these provisions both verbally and in writing to the Council and is committed to completing the Section 106 within 4 months as per the officer’s recommendation. 


He asked members to support the officer’s recommendation.


Mr Shepherd stated that as flood risk and drainage engineers they have a duty to assess proposed development sites to ensure they are fit for purpose and safe for the end users and do not propose a risk beyond the extent of the development site, which they do by engaging with the relevant authorities.  He acknowledged that there are some concerns from local residents, but made the point that these concerns are not supported by technical consultees and are not supported by evidence. 


Mr Shepherd stated that in relation to flooding and the high water table, the site is within Flood Zone 1, the lowest category.  He added that two previous farmers of the land have stated that the field has never flooded and there have been two reported instances within the vicinity, both of which occurred on Bridge Lane and were suggested to be caused by fluvial run off. 


Mr Shepherd did acknowledge that ground water levels were raised as a possible concern, which was reviewed within the Flood Risk Assessment as a possible risk which may need further investigation and appropriate mitigation measures can be put in place if required.  He stated that Anglian Water have advised that they do not have any capacity issues within the foul network in the local area and have not advised of any flooding issues. 


Mr Shepherd stated that capacity issues have been noted at the waste water treatment works, however, Anglian Water have said they will provide capacity for the development, with the foul water serving the development site to be adopted and maintained by Anglian Water.  He made the point that following the IDBs preliminary surface water and sewage effluent assessment, approval in principle has been obtained to discharge of restricted surface water flow into the adjacent land drainage ditch for the use of water retention basin, attenuation and restricted flows into the ditch, which mimics the existing site regime and restricts flows to greenfield run off rates using a flow control device to ensure the restricted flow rate is not exceeded. 


Mr Shepherd expressed the view that the proposal will also provide a 9 metre easement and a maintenance strip down the entire eastern side of the development for maintenance of the existing ditch.  He stated that the site will be served by a new surface water drainage system which will intercept controlled run off from areas of hard standing and where necessary landscaped areas, with permeable paving and a bio-retention area being explored at detailed design stage.  He added that the effects of climate change will also be factored into the drainage design in line with current planning policy. 


Mr Shepherd expressed the opinion that there are no surface water issues associated with the site, with a detailed design needing to be agreed by all the relevant parties at Reserved Matters stage, which will be tightly controlled by the proposed conditions contained in the officer’s report.  In his view, the site does not have any flooding, foul sewage and surface water issues as they can be designed in accordance with the Drainage Strategy.


Members asked questions of Mr Mowatt and Mr Shepherd as follows:

·         Councillor Cornwell asked who will be responsible for the maintenance of the SUDs and the proposed surface water drainage system that will drain into the SUDs on an on-going basis, each individual owner or a management company?  Mr Shepherd responded that it is proposed that Anglian Water will adopt as much of the infrastructure as possible, but drainage at a property level, such as permeable paving, would be the responsibility of that property.

·         Councillor Cornwell asked if there are any existing drains on the land that would be the responsibility of any riparian owner?  Mr Shepherd advised that he is not aware of any.  Councillor Cornwell made the point that this is one of the emerging problems with surface water at the moment due to the lack of maintenance by riparian owners.

·         Councillor Miscandlon asked if an up-to-date viability study has been undertaken as the costs of materials are rising?  He referred to the current guarantee of 25% of affordable housing but asked if there is the possibility of a viability study coming in which reduces that as affordable housing is needed in the District?  Mr Mowatt responded that consistently they have maintained that they will provide affordable housing on the site at 25%, which equates to 22 new affordable homes. He made the point that when the application was submitted it was for 36% affordable dwellings, which was amended to have regard for the sums of money that were directed towards education.  He added that the Council’s viability assessment suggests £2,000 per property would be acceptable in contributions but the applicant is looking at providing £2,843 per property.  Mr Mowatt stated that they are aware the prices of materials has gone up and had regard for this, and they are still confident that they can deliver the package of commuted sums as set out in the Heads of Terms and over the last month they have continued to look to develop the Section 106 in line with these Heads of Terms.  He advised that the Section 106 will be signed as a requirement in the committee report within 4 months, with a commitment to ensure this is undertaken in this timescale and if in the future the site is sold to another developer and they wanted to challenge the viability this would need to come back to this committee and it would be in the committee’s gift to say yes or no.

·         Councillor Benney referred to viability and made the point that bricks have gone from £600 per pack to £1000 and he fails to see how the proposed contributions can continue to be paid with the costs of materials and building labour.  He feels it is all very well promising these contributions now, members hear these promises a lot, but when it comes to the Reserved Matters application he would be surprised if these contributions can be met as the numbers will not stack up, but he hopes that they can.  Councillor Benney acknowledged that the only issue being looked at this afternoon is drainage, as members did not object to the rest of the proposal, and asked is the site safe, making reference to the presentation from the objector and residents at the previous meeting that were flooded, as there is a capacity issue in this area for dealing with sewage and this land at Christmas was covered in water as was other land in the area.  He made the point that members have a duty of care to their residents to make sure what is being proposed is safe and whilst he recognises that a full drainage scheme will not be submitted at this stage, he does have serious concerns about the drainage capacity for dealing with the sewage.  He asked Mr Shepherd if he would be happy to live at the proposed site?  Mr Shepherd responded that knowing what he knows about drainage and understanding how it works he would wholeheartedly live in this location knowing that it has been designed properly and in accordance with the guidance. He feels what they are proposing is the best that they can do and it is creating a betterment for the area.  Mr Shepherd understands the ill feeling about how drainage works but the surface water would be intercepted and restricted to a very low rate in a controlled way into the IDB drain as at the moment the water can leave that field in an uncontrolled way, and he rests easy knowing this can be achieved.  He expressed the view that the foul issue is a separate issue, with Anglian Water looking after the foul system and they have to create extra capacity for additional housing, which they are aware of and have to achieve.  He does sympathise that surface water is getting into the foul system and if this is coming off this field then this proposal will stop this from happening because it is being captured and not being allowed to go into Bridge Lane.

·         Councillor Murphy asked what was in the report that made Matthew Homes raise the level of the Nursery Gardens site and this proposal also raises the level of the site so does this mean that there is prior knowledge of a flooding problem?  Mr Shepherd responded that he has not seen the report from Nursery Gardens site, but is this attributed to ground water that raised the level of this site?  Councillor Murphy stated that he is not aware, which is why he is asking the question. Mr Shepherd expressed the view that they are not raising the site from a flood level issue as the site lies in Flood Zone 1 so it is not a fluvial issue, it is not water that is coming out of the water courses and on to the site and it is not rain water as this should be dealt with by the surface water drainage system so he can only assume that it is due to ground water issues and to combat these issues you might raise the property levels.  Councillor Murphy asked if this would be happening on this site?  Mr Shepherd stated that following further ground investigations, where a grounds investigation specialist would be employed who would probably install some bore holes for ground water monitoring to provide a better idea of what the level is and what the levels of the properties need to be.

·         Councillor Benney referred to the submitted plan and asked what the pump in the north-east corner of the site is going to pump water to?  He is of the view that the Nursery Gardens development was raised as water would not soak into covered ground, running off onto this site and where does the water from this site run to and if this is just pumping it further down the line is this going to cause more problems to residents in Bridge Lane?  Mr Shepherd responded that the pumping station in the north-east corner is for foul water, which might need to be pumped to an existing sewer to the north-east of the site, which Anglian Water have said has capacity to take that additional flow.  He reiterated that the surface water will go to the drainage ditch to the east of the site and the foul water will go to a piped system which will go onto the waste water treatment works.

·         Councillor Mrs French asked if there was a guarantee that Anglian Water are going to accept this surface water as it is unusual that Anglian Water want surface water?  Mr Shepherd responded that they do not have a guarantee, but with the number of properties being proposed it would be put up for adoption and the design would be to a standard where Anglian Water would be willing to accept that infrastructure.  He expressed the view that if you end up with lots of private drains, who looks after the private drains and they want them to be maintained by somebody on a regular basis.  Councillor Mrs French expressed the view that it is a shame that there is not actually something in writing from Anglian Water.

·         Councillor Mrs Mayor referred to the question from Councillor Mrs French and Anglian Water comments on Page 52 of the officer’s report where they state they are unable to provide comments on the suitability of the surface water management.  Mr Shepherd responded that this is because the surface water ends up in an IDB ditch so what they are saying is where it ends up they do not take control of how much and at what rate, that is up to the IDB to control how much water they receive into the ditches.


Hilary Ellis of Cambridgeshire County Council, the Local Lead Flood Authority, Hannah Wilson and Rob Morris of Anglian Water and Graham Moore of Middle Level Commissioners were available to answer questions along with officers.  Members asked questions as follows:

·         Councillor Mrs French stated that she was working with Cambridgeshire County Council on the flooding issues and asked Hilary Ellis if she recalls this site flooding on 24 December?  Hilary Ellis responded that the County Council received reports from Bridge Lane, Wimblington, but no specific properties.

·         Councillor Cornwell made the point that it seems that historically the problem is more foul water based than surface water based and asked Anglian Water, as the problem has been ongoing, are they convinced that if approved an adequate sewage system could be provided and it could sort out any issues to adjacent properties, especially in the Bridge Lane area?  Hannah Wilson confirmed that capacity exists for flows from this development.  She made the point that the issues that were experienced in December were surface water related and extreme weather events and Anglian Water’s foul network is designed for foul flows, it is not a sealed network, therefore, in extreme events water can get into the foul network and then the foul network surcharges, which can cause issues like residents experienced.  Hannah Wilson stated the foul water network as its designed for foul only flows can accommodate the additional flows from this development.

·         Councillor Mrs Mayor made the point that in a report on 31 December it was reported that Doddington Waste Water Recycling Centre did not have capacity to treat the flows from this site and it is now being said it does and asked if improvements have been made or improvements are planned, if so can this be guaranteed it will be undertaken to accommodate the flows?  Hannah Wilson responded that the report that stated that the plant initially did not have capacity was human error, for which she apologised, and the Case Officer was advised of this.  She stated that a new permit has been issued to Doddington Water Recycling Centre in April 2019, it is flow compliant and it does have the capacity to accommodate the additional flows.

·         Councillor Mrs Mayor expressed the view that she had heard that foul sewage was being taken from Doddington elsewhere through other villages and asked if this is still happening and if so why is it still happening?  Hannah Wilson responded that tanker movements are part of Anglian Water’s normal operation, it does not mean that there is no or long-term capacity issues and the Environment Agency can confirm that the centre is compliant.

·         Councillor Mrs French stated that last year a physical site inspection was undertaken due to concerns of the drainage board and asked Graham Moore if he was happy the way these reports are written that there are not going to be problems like there were when the site inspection was undertaken?  Graham Moore responded that he is reasonably happy, the applicant has met Middle Level’s requests for discharge and for providing a maintenance access strip so at this stage no more can be asked for.

·         Councillor Miscandlon referred to the drawing of the site, which shows along the southern and eastern edge drainage ditches and running east along Bridge Lane the ditch is also connected to these and asked Graham Moore if it was the intention for Middle Level to improve that drainage as water from this site runs into that dyke and drains down and that will then create, if you are taking more water into it, a flooding problem along Bridge Lane.  Graham Moore responded that the watercourse on the eastern boundary is a Board’s protected drain and has a 9 metre wide access strip.  He stated that the watercourse on the southern side is not protected and the Board does not have any powers to act upon it, apart from Section 23 applications, and he understands it is regularly maintained at the moment, but in the future it would be down to the individual landowner.

·         Councillor Benney stated that some of his information has come third hand from the Chairman of the Planning Committee and a Doddington Councillor, and he acknowledges that Anglian Water say there is capacity, but from what he understands from Councillor Connor raw sewage is being taken out of Doddington treatment plant and taken to March to be treated every day.  He expressed the view that if this is accurate you would be correct in saying that you have capacity by putting 10 lorries on instead of 5, but this is not solving a problem but moving a problem and he asked if this problem is going to be fixed long-term so there is capacity other than putting raw sewage on our roads and moving it?  Councillor Benney asked what the long-term plans are and is there true capacity at the Doddington Treatment Plant or is the problem being moved further down the road?  Hannah Wilson responded that there is true capacity at Doddington Water Recycling Centre and the Environment Agency, who Anglian Water work with and are its regulators, do respond to planning applications on major sites where they do have concerns regarding the water recycling centres.  She stated that there are no current plans for investment in terms of growth at Doddington Water Recycling Centre as it is flow compliant, but there are plans for installing a storm tank potentially, with the options being explored, which is a regulatory storm tank through the Environment Agency.  Hannah Wilson reiterated that Anglian Water is heavily regulated and it is within its permit at the Water Recycling Centre.

·         Councillor Booth stated that he was a councillor when the existing Local Plan was published and there is an informative in the Local Plan about consulting with Anglian Water as it was recognised 10 years ago that there were issues with capacity and there were regular tanking of waste water away from the existing facilities.  He advised that he is on the Overview and Scrutiny Panel and Anglian Water attended one of its meetings where similar questions were asked regarding increasing the infrastructure and he asked what Anglian Water had planned around improving the infrastructure and he was told categorically that there are no major plans within Anglian Water’s existing 5 year plan to improve the capacity.  Councillor Booth expressed concern over the fact that in December there was this extreme weather event, which appears to be becoming the norm and it is almost on an annual basis that flooding is occurring within Fenland, whilst 10 years ago it was not being experienced so how can capacity be dealt with when there is an extreme weather event that hits you suddenly and unexpectedly.  He queried whether there are going to be 10 tankers available to take waste water away, if not there will be a repeat of what happened in December.  Councillor Booth expressed extreme concern around capacity and the infrastructure, whilst Anglian Water might have the appropriate licences, it is about how you deal with that capacity and the improvements to the infrastructure.  Hannah Wilson responded that Councillor Booth was right that it was identified that Doddington Water Recycling Centre did have capacity constraints and this why Anglian Water increased the permit, with the Environment Agency looking at how the workings of the water recycling centre and the impact of any increase in the permit on any water environment itself and that permit was increased in 2019 which has allowed them to be flow compliant.  She stated that it is important to clarify the difference between funding infrastructure and investment at its water recycling centres as to how they fund infrastructure investment in the sewer network when they invest in their water recycling centre is through their asset management plan and paid for by customer bills and Ofwat regulate them.  In terms of the foul network, the pipes that lead from a development site that lead to the water recycling centres that is funded through their infrastructure charge which is something that all developers have to pay when they connect to their network and they pool that charge and spend it where mitigation is required so Anglian Water do manage that mitigation function on the network and would only request a condition where mitigation has been identified as needed on that network and in this instance it has not.  She hoped this answered Councillor Booth’s question about the Local Plan and why that policy was written and action has been taken to ensure they are flow compliant.

·         Councillor Booth stated this answered some of the question but it is more about whether you could have had more capacity in 2011 at Doddington Treatment Plant when the Local Plan was developed, but it was just that your permits did not allow you to use it to that extent.  He referred the extreme weather events, and expressed the view that it has not been identified that the infrastructure needs to be improved, with these events becoming more regular and he is not convinced that some of these events are not going to reoccur, which is going to cause this foul water issue again to neighbouring residents as there will not be increased capacity within the infrastructure as it is not being improved.  Hannah Wilson responded that Anglian Water cannot upgrade or upsize its network to accommodate surface water, whether this is through extreme weather events or overland surface water, which is where they rely on the surface water strategy of particular development sites and that it then for the Lead Local Flood Authority to comment on whether that strategy is acceptable, it is not within Anglian Water’s remit to look at that.  She stated that Anglian Water’s foul network is not there to take and accommodate those extreme weather events surface water flows they should be dealt with appropriately on a development site and reiterated that it is the Lead Local Flood Authority who actually respond as a statutory consultee in terms of major planning applications for that process. Rob Morris added that with regard to the surface water ingress into the foul water network any new development sites as part and parcel of their surface water strategy attenuation would be engaged quite closely with Lead Local Flood Authority and IDB, if the IDB is present.  He referred to the point by the applicant that there would be some betterment because where you would have a greenfield site you would have the surface water that falls on that land which would freely discharge into the existing ditches or infiltration, but with it being developed it would be rationalised and the pipes would be sized according to the increased capacity of any additional flows and then attenuated with a restricted discharge into the existing ditches so there is a control basis when there would not have been one before and if there are extreme weather conditions that new infrastructure will help to protect the existing environment.  Rob Morris stated that where there is a permit at the Water Recycling Centre to discharge into the receiving environment they are limited to a maximum of flow, therefore, they can only limit the amount of flow that they receive and treat.  He stated that previous to 2019 there was a permit that did not have a huge amount of capacity and there were concerns around this, which is why they approached the Environment Agency for that additional increase in discharge permit on their flows so they can receive more flows and treat the flows accordingly to discharge into the environment.  Rob Morris advised that the increase in permit was almost two thirds to what it was before, with the capital investment being minor and Anglian Water needed to ensure that it is not only the flow that is addressed but the quality so in some cases where there is an increase in flow permit they do need to invest quite heavily to meet that new heightened quality constraint, but this was not needed at Doddington as the existing assets were able to treat that new quality permit.  He referred to the tanker movements and acknowledges that it can be assumed or seen that what they are doing is moving capacity to somewhere else, but this is not what is happening on a normal routine basis, they would only do this if there was an asset failure to which they would have to make sure they were continuing their compliance within their permit.

·         Councillor Mrs French asked Hilary Ellis as Lead Local Flood Authority is she content with what she has heard?  Hilary Ellis responded in the affirmative.

·         Councillor Cornwell asked Graham Moore to clarify that the eastern ditch is a Board dyke?  Graham Moore responded that this was correct, it is a protected watercourse, but the southern dyke is not a protected watercourse so it would need to be maintained by the landowner, which as shown on the plans could be 10-15 separate owners.  Councillor Cornwell asked Graham Moore if there are any dykes under riparian ownership, a question he asked the agent but did not get a sufficient answer, and would this be dealt with somewhere within the surface water plan.  Graham Moore stated that Middle Level has no power to enforce and it is for each individual developer to provide an access or maintenance strip and then it is a question of who maintains it.  Councillor Cornwell asked if this possibly needs to be looked at in the drainage plan?  Graham Moore responded in the affirmative.

·         Councillor Mrs French expressed concern over what Graham Moore has said as across March a lot of the problems encountered, especially in December last year, were that dykes/drains had not been maintained.  She referred to a specific example in that only last week County Council officers discovered one dyke, that belongs to about 10 people, had been filled in and caused flooding and she is working with the County Council to get this dyke reopened as it is causing massive flooding problems.

·         Councillor Booth asked Graham Moore if the developer has approached the drainage board about management of the SUDs going forward as he believes that it is something introduced in the Cambridgeshire Flood Policy a couple of years ago as the problems with management companies is they can go bust or do not maintain the assets appropriately, is why it was suggested it should be maintained by the Drainage Board as they have the expertise and capacity to do these things.  Graham Moore responded that the future maintenance of SUDs is a concern and the potential liability if not dealt with properly, with also the number of parties that might be involved.  He referred to March IDB recently taking strong action against one such instance, requesting various reports and proposals and getting legal documents prepared to protect themselves and the ratepayer and he would perhaps suggest the same on future occasions.

·         Councillor Booth asked Hilary Ellis how the committee can be assured that what is being proposed is not going to cause problems, especially in relation to extreme weather events?  Hilary Ellis responded that one of the things they have asked for as part of the conditions of planning permission is for the applicant to prepare a maintenance and management plan and this would show what features are proposed, who would take ownership of each individual feature and the maintenance activities proposed per feature, which would come to them to approve.  She stated that in terms of extreme weather events, there is a national standard that every development has to meet and that is what they call statistically 1 in a 100 years rainfall event when there is 1% chance of that rainfall happening each year and then there is a 40% allowance added to that rainfall for climate change and extreme weather and in this case the developer has proposed a system that is in line with this standard so the surface water for 1 in a 100 years and allowance for climate change will be managed on the site.

·         Councillor Miscandlon referred again to the ditch on the eastern boundary and his understanding is that from previous meetings this ditch is in different ownership from this development sites ownership and asked if he was correct.  Graham Moore responded that the Nursery Gardens site is.

·         Councillor Skoulding stated he was pleased there were going to be tankers instead of open lorries as this creates a horrible smell within March.

·         Councillor Skoulding asked what is the chance of the properties that are being flooded having non-returnable valves so they do not get flooded?  Hannah Wilson responded that non-returnable valves are not a solution to the problem and they have to be careful when they are used as they can cause problems for the neighbours downstream. She made the point that if you help one person who has been flooded you can cause someone else to be flooded and need to think about the reasoning behind flooding which is surface water.

·         Councillor Skoulding stated that in the 1970’s the front of this site used to get flooded and he thought there was a drain at the front of the site and asked if this was correct?  Graham Moore responded that historically there was a problem in the area, which was erased in the 1990’s, with the current IDB drain being installed and improved in the early 2000s and he is not aware of problem since then.  He was unable to confirm if there is a land drain at the front of this site or not.

·         Councillor Mrs French asked, having listened to what Graham Moore has said, if the same approach that Middle Level took with Berryfield’s application could be applied to this development? Gavin Taylor stated that he is not familiar with the Berryfield application, but Middle Level Commissioners would be consulted when a detailed drainage strategy was submitted.  Councillor Mrs French made the point that Middle Level and the drainage boards are not statutory consultees which they should be.


Members made comments, asked questions and received responses as follows:

·         Councillor Booth stated that he has listened to the points regarding flooding and he still has reservations, especially in light of extreme weather events, which are becoming annual events and guidance is not keeping up, and in relation to surface water management.  He expressed the view that the problem with water is it will find the lowest point it can and get into the foul water system, which members have heard examples of.  Councillor Booth expressed further concern regarding the size of this development on this site in this village and personally feels it goes against policies LP3 and LP12 with the extent of it.  He acknowledged that there had been debate on this issue at the last meeting but he does not feel reading the minutes that a decision was reached one way or another and the issue was fully debated. Councillor Booth expressed the opinion that 88 houses on this site is going against what was envisaged when the Local Plan was developed, this is 11.5% growth in this village in one go with a threshold of 15% for all growth over a 20 year period so he feels that it is not a modest small extension to the village and he also feels that location is encroaching into the open countryside.

·         Councillor Miscandlon made the point that this application is Outline for access only and to erect up to 88 dwellings, with certain conditions coming forward when it comes to the Reserved Matters application, but at the moment all members are dealing with is the principle of development on this land.  He feels that the authorities have given their opinions on the subject of flooding, which has to be taken at face value as members do not have the technical expertise and if members are not happy with the explanation and assurances at the Reserved Matters stage then there is the opportunity to say no at that time.

·         Councillor Mrs French made the point that the application was debated at length at the previous committee meeting and Nick Harding stated that members were only here today to discuss flooding issues and receive expert advice.

·         Councillor Cornwell agreed that in the introduction it was very clear from officers what decisions the committee was going to have to make today and it was all around flooding, so members cannot take anything else into account.

·         Councillor Mrs Bligh agreed with Councillors Mrs French and Cornwell that, as it was deferred, the only decision members need to make is regarding the flooding, as the committee said it was satisfied with everything else.  She feels that having all these representatives saying as far as they are concerned the development is acceptable, members have no choice but to go with officer’s recommendation.

·         Councillor Benney made the point to the residents that everyone has reservations about the development and they might think the committee is making a bad decision on their behalf, but as councillors they have to listen to the technical experts, who are saying the drainage scheme works, and have to abide by policies.


Proposed by Councillor Mrs French, seconded by Councillor Cornwell and agreed that the application be APPROVED as per officer’s recommendation.


(Councillor Mrs Davis declared that she was pre-determined in relation to this application and took no part in the discussion and voting thereon)

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