MP says housing re-think is needed

MP Nick Herbert has warned the government new housing plans for villages such as Aldingbourne would worsen flooding problems.

Mr Herbert told the House of Commons on Monday the recent difficulties with surface water flooding showed the risk of allowing thousands of homes to be built in the area.

The current situation had seen foul water and overflowing sewage systems in the villages he represents.

“A substantial amount of new housing is proposed in those areas at a level that local authorities consider to be unsustainable.

“Can (the minister) assure me that in setting housing numbers, local authorities will be able to take into account the inadequacy of the infrastructure to support new housing so that the current problems do not become worse in the future.”

He tackled Eric Pickles, the communities secretary, as part of a long-running campaign to ensure only those homes which can be sustained will be approved.

Mr Pickles told Mr Herbert, the Conservative MP for Arundel and South Downs, he had made a number of reasonable points.

“I think such decisions must be made on the basis of scientific fact,” he said.

“The rising level of groundwater will continue to cause problems in (his) constituency, my constituency and, indeed, most constituencies until well into June, even if from now on things start to shine.”

Mr Herbert later pointed out Arun District Council had decided last month to 
re-think its intention to enable a new town of 2,000 homes to be built between Barnham and Eastergate, partly as a result of flooding.

He said he was disappointed the draft version of guidance to enable local authorities to oppose new housing failed to take an area’s infrastructure needs into account.

He raised the issue again on Tuesday’s edition of Radio 4’s Today programme.

“In my constituency, we have proposals for substantial expansions for villages and new towns, against the wishes of local authorities and residents in areas deemed to be at risk of surface water flooding,” said Mr Herbert afterwards.

“So, we have existing problems. I think it is important we return to the principle of sustainable development.”

This was different from being opposed to any new housing. “There is going to be substantial house-building under anybody’s plans. But they have to be reasonable and balanced plans that do address the problems of an infrastructure deficit.”