Cranleigh Society met with Waverley Officers and Councillors and asked many important questions about:
Asbestos cement drinking water pipes,
House buying in such a high flood risk area,
Water pipes bursting so often, especially near to each other,
The risks of sewage rising in homes during extreme weather,
The never considered issues of the effects of droughts on trees, food growing and properties alike.
A long time ago your Society carried out a risk assessment concerning the ageing asbestos-cement drinking water pipes in and around Cranleigh – as many as 29% of the pipes are made of these substances. Waverley Borough Council (WBC) has not been able to respond to this despite repeated requests because it is not their responsibility they say but we say that with all the planning applications there needs to be a coherent plan with Thames Water (TW).
Thames Water is constantly having to mend burst pipes in Cranleigh. Clearly there is an on-going issue around the pipes – they should be replaced in a planned way and the risks of bursts minimised. Any work on asbestos containing materials must be carried out by specialist contractors. The cutting or drilling of asbestos containing products is generally prohibited due to the release of free asbestos fibres into the atmosphere of the work area where there is a risk of inhalation. So the pipes are not to be cut but replaced to the next joint.
Waverley Officers have repeated that due to the lack of any recognised scientific evidence of a link between ingestion of asbestos fibres and intestinal cancers (such as “Jelly Belly” – a slow growing cancer of thepseudo-myoxma peritoneae) – WBC has no power to compel Thames Water to replace the pipes. WBC says it continues to meet its statutory responsibilities under the Water Industry Act, will assess any new research or evidence and will maintain regular contact with Thames Water to review the situation.
We will all continue to lobby MP Anne Milton’s flood group to see if research can be done and requirements laid out!
We asked what contingency plans does WBC have to cope with burst pipes and flooding? What about when flooding causes sewage to rise in people’s homes?
Water pipes burst for a variety of reasons and WBC is asking TW to work smarter and in a more joined up way. TW are not planning full replacement at this time.
The Chair of Cranleigh Parish Council Liz Townsend is working on a map of bursts to see numbers and clusters. This will provide evidence to pressure TW further.
If you have ever had a burst pipe please, please write to us or to Cranleigh Parish Council!
Whilst Thames Water has responsibility for dealing with burst pipes and the consequences of them The Waverley Flood Plan acknowledges that sewers can surcharge due to structural collapse and root ingresses. In an event where sewage has leaked into flood water and mixed then Waverley would liaise closely with Thames Water to help understand the risks posed. If this occurs, WBC would expect Thames Water to deal with the functioning status of their network. WBC would provide advice and support for the community if burst pipes or sewage flooding led to the need for evacuation, clean up etc. by providing temporary accommodation. Thames Water would bear the cost of any impact.
We also asked has any consideration been given to future droughts? The Environment Agency (EA) leads on drought planning and especially with responses at the time. They are liaising closely with Thames Water and other water companies to protect and sustain water supplies, reduce leakage etc. They are also working with the Surrey Local Resilience Forum and other LRFs to produce drought plans. The council would provide support during the recovery phase of any serious drought. Waverley is developing a plan in which they work alongside the tactical drought teams provided by the EA in a drought event.
So have they considered a big problem could come in the future namely serious depletion of natural water! This could impact on buildings as well as trees and other plants such as home grown vegetables and even farming. WBC has a plan BUT – Is this drought resilience document a high priority? and is it enough? How will we feel if we go ahead and plant plenty of trees to help with the Climate Emergency, only to find they cannot put roots down and find water?!!!
Cranleigh Society is concerned about people who want to buy houses in Cranleigh but are not told by solicitors about the floods of the past on what had been green fields, and of the Environment Agency (EA) and Surrey County Council’s (SCC) responsibilities about flood risks.
WBC does not respond to questions raised by solicitors regarding flooding. They say this is a matter for the Environment Agency. The Environment Agency’s website classes Cranleigh in the highest flood risk level of 3. On the EA’s website they provide the risk assessment forms for the different flood levels and they also provide sequential tests for planning permission applicants.
If there is a real risk to properties then evidence will have to be credible and in the public domain. Otherwise it is just opinion. Planning permissions are granted in the belief that flood risks will be properly managed. WBC relies on the reports from EA and SCC when granting planning permissions.
There are 2 types of flood risks – Fluvial – water from the sea and rivers – and Pluvial – water from surface water run-off.
The Environment Agency only keeps records of Fluvial risks and does not measure water on green fields.
Surrey CC has only recently been made the Statutory consultee for planning permissions regarding Pluvial waters.
Neither covers the other’s responsibilities.
Developers often challenge the EA’s assessments and win….
New maps are needed for all!
CCS has been told that properties were purchased without people being made aware that they were moving into a road where the house had previously flooded or where the land had flooded before the house was built. Some properties have flooded three or more times and the occupiers are waiting for the next time that exceptional weather/poor drainage management means they are flooded again. It may be that this is no longer true because now all sellers have to complete a statement – when putting a property on the market – of any problems the property has or had in the past such as flooding. We don’t know if there are any truth tests! We don’t know if this is the case with new builds but we don’t think so.
Also – when planning permissions are sought there is no requirement for the developers to show the ground height they expect to have to build up to before beginning to build. In Cranleigh New builds are being built on raised land and they all rely on SUDS working well.
We just don’t know what the cumulative effects of all this in the future and no-one is keeping track of all of the SUDS together and their effectiveness has yet to be tested.
Testing of Cranleigh’s rivers has always taken place occasionally and now Surrey Wildlife Trust is helping to get more testing done and some improvements made.
Chemical levels are measured by groups of volunteers as are the numbers of river fly larvae, which indicate the health levels.
It is a fact that all sewage works clean the water as best they can before letting it go into the rivers. Here are two more facts:
The levels of chemicals that remain, although allowed by government, are not good for wild life and cause the depletion of fish and their natural foods.
In a flood situation, foul untreated sewage does come up in people’s homes which is why all the possessions have to be destroyed in the worst cases.
River dipping is a much needed and scientific past-time that some of us have undertaken on everyone’s behalf . We are hunting for river-flies as they are known, the tiny lavae of various species such as cadis fly, which are collected, counted and returned to the rivers. Afterwards the data collected is viewed by experts.
At a recent dip we found just one lava along with shrimps, and so the water is probably not to their liking, too many chemicals from somewhere.
We were dipping near to the back of Cranleigh Golf and Country club.
On Monday the 24th of July, Anne Milton MP organised a meeting at the village hall that she described as a flood forum and it turned out to be much more than that. She brought together Waverley planners, Thames Water, the Environment Agency, the Drinking Water Inspectorate, Public Health England, Surrey County Council, the National Flood Forum, Cranleigh Parish Council and Cranleigh Civic Society to discuss openly several of the major concerns Cranleigh’s residents have raised with her. 65 members of the public came along and several parish and borough councillors also attended.
The plan was to address these concerns and direct them specifically to the authority responsible, so that the answers could be heard by all. We were very happy to hear sewerage problems, flooding and asbestos cement water pipes all discussed openly. It was always understood that the problems would not be resolved then and there but that efforts could be made to address them in the coming weeks and months.
To aid this, small sub committees were formed to work on specific areas and they will report back at the next meeting planned for the autumn. It was just the beginning of what will be a long term effort but a positive step and one that Cranleigh Civic Society welcomes. Members of the Society volunteered to join sub committees and share the information they have collected specific to each area so we will be close to the decision making process.
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) states that new houses should not be built:
on flood plains
on other high risk flood areas
in areas where, if houses are built, it would increase the risk of flooding neighbouring property
Despite this requirement, many homes are being built (or we expect to be built) in such areas – for example:
Crest Nicholson, betweenHorsham Road and the Downs Link
Berkeley Homes, south of the High Street
Little Meadow, east ofAlfold Road
Thakeham Homes, next to Elmbridge Road – on land that was seriously flooded in January 2015including the pumping station!
A2 Dominion, Knowle Park – new application expected soon for new houses on the lowest area in Cranleigh!
Cranleigh Society will continue to object to Waverley Borough Council to granting permission to build in these high risk flood areas, and to stop relying on so-called Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) as a guarantee against flooding, which are not always reliable!
FloodRe is a joint insurance industry and Government initiative to enable the owners of homes which have flooded to not only obtain flood insurance but at an affordable price. The problem is that FloodRe can only “come to the rescue” when a house was built before 1st January 2009! This is because, since that date, no houses should have been built in those three areas specified in the NPPF.
People who bought a house built after 1st January 2009 which has subsequently flooded are on their own when trying to renew their insurance. Their house could be uninsurable or, at best, they may have to pay a very expensive premium for cover with a high flood excess.
Until recently, the FloodRe literature did not directly mention that all important date of 1st January 2009 – it merely referred to “qualifying properties” with the reader having to visit their website to see if the house qualified! We found this to be simply unbelievable!
Cranleigh Society tackled FloodRe on this issue and, finally, they did agree to include the cut-off date in all new literature – with no explanation or apology for excluding it in the first place. There are thousands of these leaflets in circulation, and with no print date to help distinguish the correct and incorrect versions, this would of course be misleading for house buyers.
The Amlets Lane application by Cala Homes for 125 dwellings got the final vote of approval at Waverley Borough Council last night by 12 votes to 9. Cranleigh’s Waverley Councillors all voted against the application, however this last minute push was too late to save the site from development.
Liz Townsend spoke on behalf of Summerlands Estate Residents Association and residents of Copse Edge:
We acknowledged that Cala Homes had made some welcome and positive changes to the layout since the application was deferred in September, with a reduction in the height and bulk of the apartment buildings, the positioning of bungalows along Copse Edge and the removal of a parking court.
Residents’ Liaison Group
Residents remain extremely concerned about the access road into the site and the lack of detail regarding the drainage system for surface water run-off. On residents behalf, we requested ongoing involvement in the design of the drainage scheme by sharing local knowledge on flooding. The idea of a liaison group was endorsed by some councillors, and we have emailed Waverley Borough Council today to repeat this request.
To protect the privacy of residents living adjacent to the site, we requested a restriction on permitted development to the roof of any dwelling along the site boundaries, as recently imposed on the Crest Nicholson development on Horsham Road, which was agreed. This means that householders on the Amlets estate will have to apply for planning permission to extend into their roof space.
We also requested details that the buffer zone (shown above) around the edge of the site should be included in the overall management plan for the estate, as there is a risk that it could become overgrown, neglected and unsightly, or encroached on as part of the drainage scheme.
Since the first application, residents have highlighted subsidence issues on Summerlands and the requirement for pile driving on Copse Edge. We expressed surprise that the developers were still recommending concrete strip foundations and maintain that these will not be adequate and the need for deeper foundations could be used as leverage to further reduce the amount of affordable housing on the estate on viability grounds.
We noted with regret, that the proposed tenure split is now to be 50:50 between social rented and shared ownership, rather than, as was agreed at outline, 76% rented and 24% shared ownership. However, Cllrs were unable to discuss this aspect of the application, as the alteration will be by way of a separate variation to the S106 agreement and will be agreed by planning officers under what is called delegated powers. However, we asked Cllrs to honour the original condition as this was one of the main determining points in approving this exceptional green field site.
Sewerage Infrastructure and water Quality
We requested further details from Waverley about the calculation of S106 contributions from the developer for off-site sewage upgrade work, or for water quality mitigation, as required under the Water Framework Directive (WFD), for Cranleigh Waters. We have repeated this request today.
In response to a meeting on 12 October with Cranleigh Civic Society, Anne Milton and Andrea Leadsom. Defra confirmed that development must not be contrary to the WFD and to paragraph 109 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which states that the planning system should contribute to and enhance the natural and local environment. The obligation that Waverley has, to consider WFD when determining local development, has, we believe, not been fully satisfied.
Cranleigh’s Councillors raised lengthy additional comments surrounding road safety, which unfortunately was not one of the reasons for the previous deferral of the application, and although, we firmly agree, extremely important, was all too late to save the Amlets site.
There were further concerns raised about traffic turning out of the estate onto Amlets Lane and the route of construction traffic, suggestions of a one-way system were raised. The Construction Management Plan will ultimately be decided by planning officers, who will we hope take up the suggestion of a further site visit.
We will all need to be vigilant once construction starts on this site and use this road only when necessary and with increased care. Please continue to report any incidents to us firstname.lastname@example.org and send in photos if these can be taken safely.