Flood risk to be a big concern in planning

FLOOD risks around proposed new housing would be taken seriously, councillors have been told.

Arun District Council’s top councillor for planning Ricky Bower said the threats from flooding were to form one of the main considerations about choosing which sites would be earmarked for the large-scale development of homes.

He told a special meeting of the council: “The issue of flooding on strategic sites is one that was considered when it came to the local plan sub-committee dealing with those sites.

“It was largely for that reason, we as a council, decided to send strategic sites back for further consideration.”

One of those locations was the Barnham, Westergate and Eastergate area. This was set to take a ‘garden city’ style development of 2,060 homes.

The choice is to be re-thought by the council along with those locations which were also recommended for major housing schemes and those previously considered and rejected.

Cllr Bower said the Environment Agency had a big role to play in enabling schemes in places likely to be flooded to be rejected in spite of comments in the national media to the contrary by its national chairman, Lord Smith.

“I would point out the agency is a statutory consultee on planning developments. When they tell us, against local knowledge, that there is no problem we have to accept it.”

Going against the agency’s advice, and refusing the scheme, could lead to the council being defeated by the developer at a planning appeal.

Cllr James Walsh (LD, Beach) said the flooding across the south and south-west showed it was crucial to avoid development in areas at risk of flooding.

“I want to be absolutely re-assured there is significant recognition of the danger posed by building on or near a flood plain,” he said.

“The River Arun, Aldingbourne Rife, Black Ditch and Ferring Rife are all prone to flooding, particularly in times of heavy rainfall.”

The comments were made as Tuesday’s meeting agreed most of the council’s draft local plan.

Matters such as the strategic gaps, including Bersted-Chichester, retail areas, building design and the natural environment were unanimously backed. Controversial issues such as the sites of large-scale housing schemes to meet the council’s target of 580 homes a year for 15 years were not considered.

They are set to be looked at by the council’s local plan sub-committee early next month and debated by all councillors at the end of April.

A bid by Cllr Francis Oppler (LD, Orchard) to set a deadline of April 30 for the local plan to be completed was defeated. He said it was crucial the council quickly finished the work to stop ‘developers running amok’ putting in applications where they liked.