Many of you attended the third Cranleigh Flood Forum on 9 March, hosted by Anne Milton MP, when discussions continued on sewer and surface water pipe misconnections, concerns about the sewage treatment works and Cranleigh Waters, questionable planning decisions by the Joint Planning Committee (JPC) of Waverley Borough Council and other matters.
However the asbestos cement (AC) drinking water pipes and the very controversial approval of the Thakeham homes site in Elmbridge Road dominated the meeting.
We, Cranleigh Civic Society, reported that, just the previous day, we had a high level meeting with a leading Insurer to discuss the insurance implications of both these very real concerns.
This Insurer confirmed what we had heard from a leading Insurer of County, Borough and Town/Parish Councils – this is that, except for a few specialist schemes, all UK Public and Products Liability policies have a total asbestos exclusion. This follows the inhaled asbestos disaster, where claims are still being made, and which is reported to have cost Insurers worldwide $100 billion – and which nearly brought Lloyd’s of London to it’s knees in the 1990s.
So, at the meeting, the we urged Waverley and Thames Water to check their own policies as, if they have no asbestos cover, and asbestos fibres in eroding and bursting drinking water pipes (which make up 29.6% of Cranleigh’s pipes) do lead to ingested asbestos fibre health problems, they could well have to finance both the claims and legal costs out of their own fund – for decades.
Of course, Cranleigh is not alone – this is a matter of concern and receiving attention throughout the World including Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Europe so we continue to monitor activity worldwide.
Whilst we are pleased Thames Water are starting to replace Cranleigh’s AC pipes, our aim is to seek a cessation of all connections of new housing to the drinking water system until all the AC pipes have been replaced with new, safe plastic pipes. Failure to do so would mean that, as new homes are connected to the existing system, it would result in the flow having to be increased which would lead to faster erosion and more frequent bursts.
We also discussed with the Insurer the decision by Waverley to grant permission for the building of 54 houses on a flood plain – an area which regularly floods seriously with the last occasion being as recently as December 2013.
The JPC ignored the detailed evidence submitted by us and, instead, relied on the report provided by consultants engaged and paid by the applicant, Thakeham Homes. Their representative was even allowed to sit at the planners table – very unorthodox.
Prior to the meeting on 5 October 2017, a member of the JPC submitted his flood risk evidence to the Chair of the JPC but it was ignored. That same member tried to have his evidence considered at the meeting but he was shouted down by the Chair and told to shut up.
The Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA) is Surrey County Council and the Flood Risk Management Strategy and Partnerships Team Leader (who attended the Flood Forum) confirmed to a Councillor, in an email dated 21 February 2018, that when considering building on this type of site, the planning “process is in part reliant on robust and accurate feedback from the community” but the JPC chose to ignore this guidance and the detailed evidence, including photos, submitted by Cranleigh Civic Society.
So there is the terrible prospect of families buying new homes built on a flood plain and which are highly likely to flood, with all the dire consequences, because of a seriously flawed planning decision.
When, at the meeting last week, we explained this situation to the Insurance Company it was made very clear that obtaining flood insurance on this site would be very difficult if the Insurer agrees that the evidence presented to them is sound. Top UK Insurers do not rely on the flood maps available to all on websites – they have invested in their own exceptionally detailed flood mapping, so detailed that they can have separate risk classifications for individual houses. They pay particular attention to new housing developments including local knowledge, nearby postcodes, topography and using the very latest technology.
Perhaps the unavailability of flood insurance from reputable Insurers may stop innocent families making the worst financial decision of their lives?
Anne Milton was of the view that a meeting should be arranged with Thakeham Homes, attended by all the relevant organisations, to explain the very real issues with developing this site, and undertook to put this in motion.
Needless to say we welcome this initiative by our MP but will Cranleigh Civic Society be invited? We sincerely hope so!
Since our posting on 6 October we have written to Anne Milton MP, Tom Horwood (Interim MD at Waverley Borough Council) and the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to confirm our utter amazement and dismay that this application was granted.
We are meeting this morning with Tom Horwood to discuss this matter further.
We asked DCLG to call-in the application on the basis that the Joint Planning Committee Chairman, Cllr Isherwood, refused to allow the members of the JPC to consider the correct flood levels provided by Cllr Hyman and which have been subsequently checked by our expert who confirmed the (higher) levels were 100% correct. The refusal to allow a debate is a fact – have a look at the video of the meeting:
Cllr Isherwood relied heavily on an desktop computer report by a company working on behalf of the developers to the total exclusion of all other primary evidence presented by residents and other councillors. The developer’s representative was allowed unprecedented access to members throughout the entire meeting and sat with officers at the head table and was allowed to speak throughout the discussion of the flooding item, unlike the parish council, residents or the Cranleigh ward member who were only allowed a maximum of 4 minutes.
We take the view that there has been a blatant violation of planning law. DCLG refused our call-in request so Anne Milton was then requested to not only push DCLG to reconsider their decision but also involve the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). It was only at the beginning of this year that DEFRA, following the disastrous flooding in the North of England, issued a consultation document asking for submissions on how to reduce the Governments exposure to the ever increasing cost of flood relief – and here we have another Government Department hell bent on condoning the granting of planning permission on a flood plain where future serious flooding is a certainty!
Where is the joined up thinking here?
Hopefully we will be able to get some answers today and achieve some joined up thinking from central government but we have to be prepared for inaction so we have already commenced discussions with the Association of British Insurers with a view to having this Thakeham site as a decline risk for flood insurance as Insurers only take on flood risks, not flood certainties.
Last night Waverley Borough Council granted planning permission for 54 houses on the worst site in Cranleigh for new houses on the Elmbridge Road.
The developers Thakeham Homes say they pride themselves on the quality of their homes and yet they are building houses smaller than nationally set space standards between a smelly sewage treatment plant and a river that regularly floods. New residents will need pegs for their noses and water wings.
However, on a serious note the drainage for this site is being put in an area that we know floods regularly so will be completely useless when its needed most, as is the children’s play area, we hope that anyone who lives there keeps a careful eye on their children, as we know how quickly the river can change from a low to high state and how quickly it flows in times of flood.
The Joint Planing Committee accepted (10 to 8) the new “expert” estimated advice that the flood zones on the land had now miraculously moved since the last time it came before committee in JUNE 2017 and they ignored local residents, the Parish Council and expert evidence put forward by our Councillor Liz Townsend that the flooding had been much worse in December 2013 than was being stated and was at the very least 45.194m. They also refused to look at photographic evidence presented by Councillor Jerry Hyman from Farnham, that showed both a water mark on the pumping station on the Elmbridge Road, taken in December 2013, as well as flood detritus, that proved the water had been over a 1 in 1,000 years predicted flood event. We have had at least two floods of this magnitude in 50 years – 1968 and 2013, so more of 1 in 25 years! Far from the flood zones being reduced, they should have been increased and the safety of new residents and people living further downstream should have been paramount.
As a chartered insurance broker I am acutely aware of the fact that these new residents are not guaranteed flood insurance, in fact they could end up with new (and very expensive) homes that are frankly worthless.
Yet another development in Cranleigh bringing our total new houses up to nearly 1,400. In a race for a housing figure corners are most definitely being cut and it is Cranleigh residents that will be left with all the mounting problems.
We hope that the articles on this website will assist any new residents when they need to make an insurance claim in the future.
Despite fears about flooding from Cranleigh Waters and odour from the sewage treatment plant as well as water quality in the river, Waverley Borough Council’s Joint Planning Committee are being recommended to GRANT permission to Thakeham Homes for 54 new dwellings on the Elmbridge Road site. The meeting will take place on Thursday 5th October – public are welcome. Time 7pm at the Burys – Council offices in Godalming.
If you have any photos of flooding on this site whatsoever, could you please email your photos to firstname.lastname@example.org or send printed copies of photos to Phill Price, Chair, Cranleigh Civic Society, 18 Brookside, Cranleigh GU6 8DA
As an update on this post from last week, the JPC voted 9-5 to defer the decision on this application, on grounds of flooding and odour from the nearby sewage works.
Thakeham Homes application (Planning Ref : WA/2016/1921) for 54 houses off Elmbridge Road goes to Joint Planning Committee this Weds 28 June 2017 6:30pm at Waverley Offices in Godalming. Officers are recommending this for APPROVAL.
This entire site was underwater in Dec 2013/Jan 2014 – the road, which was higher than the site, was impassable.
In January 2015 about 30% of the site was flooded.
The site also enjoys sewage odour during the summer months – this has got to be a low point even for Waverley! Under 2.3 Odour Complaints of the Odour Assessment it is alleged that odour is only a problem to residents living NE and SE of the site and that only one property to the south complained.
Is that, perhaps, because the main area to the south is the green field where development is being proposed?
Thakeham Homes have stated that “odour is not considered to be a constraint to residential development at the site”.
Would you like your children to buy a house here with no guarantee of flood insurance and likely to have unpleasant odours? Doesn’t sound like idyllic village life to us.
What you can do:
Attend the JPC meeting:
6.30pm 28 June 2017 Waverley Borough Council offices, The Bury’s, Godalming.
Ask her to call in this outrageous application. Email her on email@example.com the reference is WA/2016/1921 Land South Of Elmbridge Road, Cranleigh perhaps notice will be taken if lots of people request it.