Liz Townsend and Richard Bryant had a high level meeting on Thursday 19 February with Royal Sun Alliance (RSA) in Horsham, who were aware of pressure from developers to build on sites with high flood risk.
We discussed the remit of the Environment Agency (EA), which covers flooding from rivers and seas (fluvial) and the fact that the EA, as statutory consultee, can only object to applications on these grounds. In the case of the Cranleigh sites, the EA had strongly recommended that flood risk from surface and ground water should be investigated by Waverley Borough Council. The EA themselves have acknowledged the limitations of their flood maps for agricultural land, as they rely on instances of reported flooding to shape these and reports are invariably not made when green fields suffer a flood event.
RSA confirmed that their own flood modelling is based on many tools and data sources and that they have no appetite for insuring new properties built on flood plains and would consider ruling out entire estates if this was the case. This was an area that insurance companies were already discussing at government level in light of the FloodRe scheme, which only covers houses built prior to 1 Jan 2009. In applying this cut-off date the insurance industry as a whole is avoiding incentivising unwise building in known high flood risk areas.
RSA also echoed our concerns about the lack of inspection, maintenance and adoption of sustainable urban drainage systems (SuDS) such as those planned for the sites in Cranleigh. We both welcomed Eric Pickles’s statement on 18 December confirming that local planning authorities should consult the relevant lead local flood authority, in our case Surrey County Council, on the management of surface water with effect from 6 April 2015. However we recognised that 1,000s of new homes will have already been built, have had planning approved or applied for, where the SuDS have not been inspected, where no maintenance plans exist and without which the SuDS could become an additional source of flood risk for communities in the future. Planning for SuDS failure, as demonstrated at the Crest Nicholson site in Leverstock Green, is extremely important.
RSA also stressed the human aspect of flooding and the misery this causes. Not only is it an extremely frightening situation at the time, after flood water enters people’s homes, which inevitably also contains raw sewage, it is not unusual for people to be out of their homes for a year or more. In this time they may have to be housed away from their community, in a house or flat where there may be restrictions for pets, is situated far away from their childrens’ schools and also parents’ places of work. It is an extremely unsettling situation for the entire family and the nightmare of flooding in a high risk area is ever present.
It was an extremely productive meeting and our efforts in informing our community about the very real risk of unmaintained SuDS, together with the fact that new residents will not automatically get flood insurance cover were applauded by RSA.
This is an area that more and more people will unfortunately become familiar with in the forthcoming years.
The Cranleigh Society is barely 4 months old and yet it has achieved so much in that short time!
Initially set up with 9 residents from the Neighbourhood Plan Housing Group we have quickly become an important part of the Cranleigh community.
We are encouraged by the growing number of people supporting us, including our MP Anne Milton and we would like to take this opportunity to thank you all.
We are committed to unearthing the facts and keeping our community informed.
Since setting up the civic society on 9 October 2014, with your support, we have had some amazing successes. We have been a key contributor in:
Bringing Cranleigh’s flood risk and rural road infrastructure to the attention of our Borough Councillors, our County Councillor Alan Young and our MP Anne Milton.
Getting the Berkeley Homes, The Maples, application; by far the largest in the whole borough of Waverley deferred and then rejected by the joint Planning Committee at Waverley.
The Crest Nicholson decision to get an independent drainage assessment on their site The Chantries, on the Horsham Road, investigating amongst other things if this will increase flood risk to neighbouring properties.
Highlighting the real facts about insurance cover in areas at high risk of flooding.
Promoting a proportionate share of the total Waverley housing allocation on brownfield sites in Cranleigh first and fighting overwhelming and inappropriate development on our green fields.
In addition to this we have set up our website, Facebook and Twitter accounts (Pinterest is next for publishing all our local flood photos).
Crest Nicholson are planning to build 149 houses off the Horsham Road in Cranleigh with proposals for a sustainable drainage system (SuDS) with run-off flowing into Holdhurst Brook.
This proposed drainage system has not been independently verified by the Lead Local Flood Authority (Surrey County Council) to ensure that there is adequate capacity and that it will not increase the flood risk for existing residents nearby. We would also like to know what the ongoing maintenance plan is for this drainage system and what the contingency plan is in event of its failure?
The video below recorded what happened at Leverstock Green, one of Crest Nicholson’s sites in January 2014. Local residents warnings of flood risk had been ignored and new residents only occupied their homes for a matter of weeks before experiencing this flood water with the added risk of sewage contamination.
This incident was referred to by the Cranleigh Society in a recent meeting in the village chaired by Anne Milton MP, who confirmed that it was incidents like this that made residents justifiably concerned about increased flood risk.
Anne Milton MP chaired a meeting of developers in Cranleigh Village Hall on Saturday 24 January 2015 attended by over 150 residents. Representatives from Crest Nicholson (149 dwellings Horsham Road site), Berkeley Homes (425 dwellings recently refused Knowle Lane and Alfold Road site), Knowle Park Initiative (265 dwellings West Cranleigh Nurseries) and Threadneedle Investments (120 dwellings Hewitts Industrial Estate) were on the panel.
(Representatives of the Amlets Lane development, which has outline planning approval for 125 dwellings, declined the invitation and said they would be consulting further with the village over the next couple of months)
The meeting had been called in response to repeated requests from developers to meet the MP. Anne Milton felt that a public forum would be more appropriate, where the community could ask direct questions and voice their concerns, particularly on the areas of infrastructure and flooding.
It soon became clear that other than the existing light touch proposals suggested by Surrey Highways and the developers, there were to be no improvements to mitigate the effect of any large scale development on our rural road network. Residents stressed the fact that this development would not only affect Cranleigh but would have a severe impact on Bramley, Shalford, Shamley Green and Guildford and that this had not been taken into account whatsoever.
As was pointed out by Parish Councillor Rosemary Burbridge; the main roads around Cranleigh have evolved from cart tracks and it is impossible to see how these, single track in places, could accommodate the amount of traffic generated by these developments. Inadequate infrastructure can be a material constraint for development and a reason for refusal.
Cranleigh Society spokesperson Liz Townsend pointed out Waverley Borough Council’s Sustainability Appraisal of the Waverley Local Plan Part 1 stated that:
“Cranleigh is relatively unconstrained environmentally” and because of this “’very high’ growth” should be considered (roughly translates as Cranleigh has no green belt so dump the majority of Waverley’s housing allocation there). However the report goes on to highlight that there are:
“No major socio-economic arguments in favour of this option. Cranleigh has more of a ‘village feel’ than is the case for the other main settlements, and it is the case that housing need is not focused in this part of the Borough. Also, recent speculative (i.e. non-plan led) applications for housing schemes have served to highlight concerns over infrastructure.”
When asked at the meeting if this was the sort of growth that the residents wanted with no socio-economic benefits to the community, the overwhelming response was NO!
Flooding issues remain a huge concern. Cranleigh Society member Richard Bryant, an insurance broker, asked Crest Nicholson if they could guarantee that their Horsham Road development would not exacerbate flooding for the adjacent houses in Nightingales. They confirmed that they could.
He then went on to ask the Crest representative what had happened in their development at Leverstock Green, where new residents, some of whom had only been in their homes a matter of weeks, suffered two feet of flooding and raw sewage after heavy rain. Previously Crest Nicholson had been warned by local residents of the serious flood risk.
Limited accessibility to flood insurance was again highlighted by Richard Bryant. He confirmed that although residents might be lucky enough to get insurance for their new home for a period of 12 months, when flooding did occur the insurance company could withdraw its cover completely, substantially increase the premiums and impose a high excess. The residents of these new homes could find themselves without any flood cover at all. Homes built after January 2009 are not included under the FloodRe scheme and we need to continue to highlight this issue.
We cannot ignore the devastating effect of flooding on people’s lives. The Cranleigh Society has spoken to residents that were flooded in December 2013, some of whom were out of their homes for nearly a year. We have seen at first-hand how upsetting this has been for them and the worry that is ever present at times of heavy rainfall. It is not simply flood water that enters peoples’ homes but raw sewage as well seeping up from sewers overwhelmed by the flow of surface water.
The representative of Berkeley Homes stated once again that the Environment Agency had not objected to their application. However the Cranleigh Society pointed out that the Environment Agency’s remit only covers flooding from rivers and seas and therefore it can only object to planning applications on these grounds. But as we know Cranleigh regularly suffers from surface water flooding and residents’ photos continue to document this. The Environment Agency strongly recommended on the Berkeley Homes application that surface water flooding be investigated thoroughly. This has not been done.
The fact was commented on that none of the drainage systems proposed to cope with the surface water run-off on the building sites, have been subject to an independent assessment. Surrey County Council; our Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA), will not be consulted on this issue until after 6 April 2015. This was outlined in the recent statement by the Secretary of State in order to further protect people and property from flood risk. After April this year it will be Surrey’s responsibility to ensure that any drainage system meets the required standards of operation and that there are clear arrangements in place for ongoing maintenance over the lifetime of the development. Without this in place Waverley Borough Council and that means us the tax payers would have to foot the bill when the drainage systems fail in Cranleigh.
The Cranleigh Society was encouraged to hear the Knowle Park Initiative state at the meeting that their drainage system would be inspected by the Lead Local Flood Authority for Surface Water Flooding (Surrey County Council), however we have been in contact with the planning department and have not been able to find any evidence of this. We do hope that they will stand by this statement and we will let you know if this does, or does not, happen.
As a community we must ensure that houses are not built on green fields at high risk of flooding. The Cranleigh Society has spoken to the Environment Agency who have confirmed that flood records for green fields (agricultural land) are very patchy. In many cases they are never advised when this type of land suffers from a flood event. It is therefore up to the community with local knowledge to highlight historic and ongoing flood issues and to protect residents from the very real and devastating effect of flooding.
Parish Councillor Ken Reed circulated a key facts sheet, alongside the developers’ promotional material. He highlighted that in Waverley’s consultation Sept 2014 80% of the residents that took part selected the option for 650 dwellings in Cranleigh (350 on brownfield sites and 300 on green fields) to be built from 2013 to 2031. This is an increase in housing stock of 14%; “equivalent to three Summerlands Estates).
The Waverley Borough Council 2014 consultation shows that people in Cranleigh were not against new housing, but housing measured against objective need. Not a disproportionate amount forced upon inadequate infrastructure.
In summarising the meeting Anne Milton MP observed that no new information had come to light and residents’ major concerns had not been addressed. She praised the Cranleigh Society for their efforts and for the thoroughness of their approach.
As one resident said after the meeting “there is a real need for the Cranleigh Society to exist, be vigilant, pool views and be heard.”