To determine the application
David Rowen presented the report to members.
Members received a presentation in accordance with the Public Participation Procedure from Ben Hornigold, the Drainage Consultant, associated with the application.
Mr Hornigold stated that it is his understanding that the committee had decided at its meeting of 30 June to agree the proposal in principle and defer the application for further detail with regard to the Flood Risk Assessment. He explained that he had prepared the Flood Risk Assessment for the site and consulted the Environment Agency (EA), Middle Level Commissioners and the Hundred of Wisbech Internal Drainage Board, with the exercise confirming that the proposed development was appropriate and would remain safe for the 100-year period as required by the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
Mr Hornigold stated that the site falls within Flood Zones 1 and 2 and in line with the NPPF and associated technical document does not require the exception test to be applied. He explained that the title has mapping provided by the EA and it indicates that the site is not at risk of flooding in the case of a breach in tidal defences and the one in a thousand-year event was applied to that element.
Mr Hornigold stated that the EA and Hundred of Wisbech IDB do not object to the development, with the EA recommending that its advice is followed which it has been, and added that the finished floor levels have been required to be raised by 500mm above the adjacent land level. He made the point that the online Government flood risk data indicates that a small portion of the site may suffer from localised surface water flooding, but expressed the opinion that the standing surface water, which was illustrated, is a consequence of a topographical low in the area and as the development site has been down to grass for the past 17 years, due to the traffic on it, the compaction of the soil has taken place which has prevented the infiltration of the surface water into the ground.
Mr Hornigold added that the photograph was taken after an extreme rainfall event in December 2020, and this is not the area within the villages that suffered from flooding and the Hundred of Wisbech IDB have indicated that they will look to find a resolution to that problem by revising the way in which they operate. He explained that he undertook the sequential test review, and, in his opinion, there is no other site in the settlement of the same character or equitable to this site, where two properties can be housed on 2.71 acres of land, which offer the same placement of those properties and he asked the committee to support and approve the application because there are no grounds on flood risk to refuse the application.
Members asked Mr Hornigold the following questions:
· Councillor Miscandlon asked Mr Hornigold to elaborate on what advice and mitigation works the Internal Drainage Board have proposed to address further flooding episodes. Mr Hornigold provided detail from a letter received from the IDB confirming that they are undertaking a massive improvement programme including works to the drainage ditches.
· Councillor Sutton asked for clarity for the benefit of other members with regard to the terminology of the word ‘free board’. Mr Hornigold explained that free board is the difference in level, between the water level retained in a ditch and the land level it serves.
Members asked officer’s the following questions:
· Councillor Murphy referred to Mr Hornigold stating that the site was in Flood Zone 1 and 2 and asked officers to confirm that this is correct. David Rowen stated that he has consulted the EA flood mapping system earlier that day and stated that two thirds of the site is in Flood Zone 2 and the remaining third is in Flood Zone 1.
· Councillor Sutton referred to the exit on to Fridaybridge Road and stated that whilst the hedge on the adjoining dwelling is currently only 900mm high what would happen when it reaches 2 metres high. David Rowen stated that it is a valid issue, which has also been raised by residents in their representations, and added that the Highway Authority have raised no concerns with regards to vehicular access.
· Councillor Cornwell asked for clarity with regards to the application and confirmation that the committee are only considering the issues surrounding flooding and no other aspects of the application which had been discussed at the previous meeting. Councillor Connor stated that it was his understanding that there was another matter to be considered and he asked officers to confirm. David Rowen stated that when the application was reported to members, there were two reasons for refusal, one was due to flood risk, which members requested further information on and the other related to character and appearance. He added that the debate at the meeting on the 30 June concluded that the character and appearance was not deemed an appropriate reason for refusal by committee, however, the officer’s professional opinion is that the issue remains and, therefore, there are the two reasons for refusal sited in the officer’s recommendation. Councillor Cornwell stated that the committee are, therefore, only looking at the flooding matter of the application and he did not agree with the decision taken by members of the committee at the meeting of 30 June and for that reason he confirmed he would take no further part in the discussion or voting on this item.
· Councillor Sutton stated that he notes that the officer’s report references the application as being in Friday Bridge, but, in his opinion, the application site is in Elm.
Members asked questions, made comments, and received responses as follows:
· Councillor Miscandlon made the point that the Drainage Consultant has stated that the IDB are apparently going to carry out large improvement works, however, there were no timescales given to back that information up and the properties will be vulnerable to surface water flooding. He added that even though the properties will be raised by 500mm, it will alleviate some of the problems but will not cure it. Councillor Miscandlon expressed the view that more information regarding the improvement works should be provided and questioned whether the developer can contribute towards the works to expedite them.
· Councillor Sutton stated that he can answer the question raised by Councillor Miscandlon as he is sits on the board of the Hundred of Wisbech IDB and on its working group. He stated that at a recent meeting, two consultants attended to map out the IDB area and the work has already started, with in the region of £1,000,000 having been spent improving the outflow into the Walderlsey pump and a further £1,000,000 has been spent to line the old arcon pipework with further investment still to be spent.
· Councillor Benney stated that if the application is passed in its outline form, when it is brought back at the reserved matters stage, it will contain a drainage scheme which will either be deemed acceptable or not. In his opinion the application should be passed, and the drainage issues can be reviewed at the reserved matters stage.
· Councillor Mrs Bligh referred to climate change and expressed the opinion that moving forward she expects that there will be further flooding events.
· Councillor Marks stated that the photographs shown were taken following the flooding event in December and there have been two further flooding events since that time and he asked whether Councillor Sutton could advise when the works he alluded to being carried out by the IDB commenced and has it benefitted the area suffering from further flooding episodes. Councillor Sutton stated that the works carried out to date would not resolve the surface water flooding at the site and going forward, in his opinion, there will be no IDB who to date could undertake works to be able to deal with torrential downpours.
· Councillor Sutton referred to the sequential test and stated that there is nowhere in Friday Bridge or Elm with planning permission that would be able to accommodate two dwellings of that size on that size of plot.
· Councillor Murphy stated that Councillor Sutton had stated that there will never be another two dwellings built in Friday Bridge or Elm, as there are no available plots to do it and he questioned his comment as, in his opinion, there will be further development. Councillor Sutton stated that he referring to the size of the plot as most developers will want to build dwellings close together but, in this case, they are nice sized dwellings on big plots.
· Councillor Benney stated that there has been numerous dwelling developments between Elm and Friday Bridge over the last few years which, in his opinion, is a good thing as it maintains the sustainability of the villages. He added that if the reserved matters application is approved, it will bring forward two nice dwellings on a spacious plot which is hard to find.
· Councillor Lynn expressed the view that he will support the application if there are only two dwellings built on the site.
· David Rowen clarified to members that the reason for refusal in respect of flooding is not one concerning the issue of surface water or whether the site can be adequately drained and can be made safe from flooding, it is whether it is an appropriate use of land in a flood risk area. He reiterated that the site is in Flood Zone 2 and local and National policy makes it quite clear that local planning authorities should direct development to area of lowest flood risk. He added that there are sites in Elm and Friday Bridge which would be available for the purposes of the sequential test as set out in the policy and stated that although members have made comments with regard to the IDB and drainage concerns, the recommended reason for refusal is about the sequential approach to flooding and directing development to the lowest risks of flooding.
· Councillor Lynn asked whether the developer already owns the land or has it been purchased specifically for development? David Rowen stated that the applicant is the owner of the land. Councillor Lynn stated that if the applicant already owns the land, he has no reason to look elsewhere for land to develop on. He expressed the view that the sequential test appears to have been written for developers coming into an area looking to buy land and develop. David Rowen stated that the purposes of the sequential test is to put development in areas at lowest risk of flooding to enable planning authorities to make strategic decisions as to where housing development should be located and, therefore, land ownership does not form part of the considerations when applying the sequential test.
· Vanessa Blane, Legal Officer, stated that land ownership is irrelevant, and the sequential test is set out to aid and guide planning committees and local authorities on flood risk.
Proposed by Councillor Benney, seconded by Councillor Miscandlon and agreed that the application be APPROVED against the officer’s recommendation, with delegated authority given to officers to determine appropriate conditions.
Members did not support the officer’s recommendation of refusal as they feel that flooding mitigation measures will be brought forward in the reserved matters application and there is not an abundance of land in the area that can provide this developments potential, with the benefits of approving the application outweighing the non-adherence to the sequential test.
(Councillor Sutton declared that he knows the applicant for this application, but this will make no difference to any decision made on the application)
(Councillor Purser declared in accordance with Paragraph 2 of the Local Code of Conduct on Planning Matters that he had been lobbied on this application)
(Councillors Cornwell and Sutton both abstained from voting on this item)