Below is the text of the letter sent to the Environment Agency and Dorset Council. We will post an update when we get responses.
Flood Risk at Vearse Farm Bridport – Request for Information
We are writing to both the Environment Agency and the Planning team at Dorset Council for an update on the flood risks presented by the proposed massive housing development at Vearse Farm. We have made similar representations to both organisations in the past but feel that the situation has changed via the ongoing climate emergency. We note that Dorset Council is currently consulting residents on its strategy in this regard and hope that Vearse Farm will reflect in practice the fundamentals of that strategy.
Since the Vearse Farm original application went in, national guidelines regarding flood risk, particularly in coastal regions, have been updated.
We are aware that Hallam submitted to WDDC a Flood Risk Assessment. WDDC did not check this assessment, Hallam simply had to tick the box of submitting one. We know this because a local resident with significant knowledge on this subject pointed out to WDDC flaws in the assessment and he was told that these would be sorted out at the ‘design stage’.
During this winter we have already seen the site flooded on several occasions. At such times we quote ruefully the lines we have been told about ‘once in a hundred years ‘. Try telling that to the people of Bedford who warned about building masses of new houses on the flood plain.
Of course, we know that houses will not be built nearest the river at Vearse Farm. The access roads do, however, have to cross land that is frequently under water.
Can you, therefore?
- Update us on the results of any recent surveys undertaken about the water table on the proposed site. Who will be reviewing the findings from the surveys?
- Which allowance category is Vearse Farm in using the latest guidelines?
- With reference to the Flood Risk Management correspondence 6th June 2017) could we also ask if the uplift of 40% (previously 30%) allowing for climate change is sufficient bearing in mind it was assessed four years ago. Does DEFRA guidance require a further uplift? This relates to the SUDS ponds and drainage. It is important because it may be several more years before this infrastructure is complete and they may be working with out-of-date figures as demonstrated by the uplift from 30% to 40%.
(Within the supporting FRA (Rev 2) reference is made to the necessary allowance for climate change, with an uplift of 30% being identified within sections 4.23, 4.35 and 6 (3.48). However, given that the current document has been submitted in support of a new application (2017), the relevant uplift should be increased to 40% in accordance with current guidance (Defra).)
We note that some Essential Infrastructure in Flood Zone 2 and 3 are in the Upper End Allowance category of 85% uplift when taking into account the projected lifespan of the development of 80 years. Guidelines suggest that Exception Tests are required for development of Essential Infrastructure in Flood Zone 3a and 3b. How rigorously are Exception Tests verified and scrutinised by the authorities?
- In the light of what appears an increased risk of flooding, how can you reassure us that the access roads will have the foundations and infrastructure to withstand frequent flooding.
Can you assure us that these have been checked following any recent surveys on the water table?
- What are the long-term liabilities of both the EA and DC in the event of a major flooding event should their approval allow the development to proceed the face of current concerns ?
In view of the importance of this issue to all Bridport residents, we have copied the letter to our local councillors and urge that this issue comes before the planning committee at the detailed planning stage.
I look forward to hearing from both organisations.