Where can water go?

COUNCILLOR Ricky Bower’s letter on flooding (Observer, September 6) completely misses the point of Hugh Coster’s recent letter on the subject on behalf of the Bognor Regis Civic Society.

Hardly any of the elaborate planning points that Cllr Bower makes on current housing provision have any direct relevance to the matter in hand.

I will courteously remind Cllr Bower of the relevance of the basic laws of physics and mechanics and their impact on the flooding process.

If you have an area of ground that is soil, grassland, crops or woodland then any rain falling on this area can be soaked up by the entire area, always assuming that the water table is not already at or near to the surface.

Obviously, this is not the case when the ground is covered with new houses, roads, driveways, paths, etc. The rain water from these structures has to be collected into drainage systems and dispersed else where.

It goes without saying that the newly-developed housing areas will be designed in such a way that they will be less likely to be subjected flooding, as Cllr Bower points out, by such mechanisms as raising the land a metre above the surrounding level.

Without such provision nobody would be likely to buy the houses! But this does nothing whatsoever to deal with the drainage water collected off these new development sites.

All might be well if this drainage water from these new sites had its own special provision to take it safely to the sea. But this is not the case.

This new drainage water finds its way into the existing rifes and drainage systems that serve existing properties built nearer to the coast in the past.

If these existing drainage systems in certain areas vulnerable to flooding are already not fit for purpose, for whatever individual reasons, then there is absolutely no question that adding water to these existing drainage systems will make existing flood-prone areas worse.

Such effects will be further compounded during flash foods like those resulting from the recent jet stream movements. No-one seems to know why these occurred or when they will happen again Also, structures like balancing ponds can have no effect when they are full and the surrounding ground is saturated.

Mr Coster’s letter pointed out that the Civic Society considers that the district council has a duty of care to existing residents by ensuring that nothing is done to make their problems worse. This means that no further developments should occur ‘up stream’ of existing housing vulnerable to flooding until problems in their drainage infrastructure are identified and satisfactorily resolved. ‘Up stream’ does not necessarily mean in the immediate vicinity. It is very reasonable to assume that drainage from the suggested major developments at, for example, Westergate would find its way across the coastal plain and have an impact on houses already built on the coast to the south of it that are vulnerable to flooding, or even, possibly, contribute to making other existing housing areas at risk.

It is the Civic Society’s view that Councillor Bower, on behalf of the district council, should be making strong representations to central government that no further development should occur on the coastal plain which is likely to exacerbate in any way areas already vulnerable to flooding. Similarly, any road improvements that might be needed in these areas should be centrally funded rather than from subsidies from new housing developments as is the current norm.

This is a matter of some urgency since nobody is suggesting the likelihood of flooding will diminish.

Laurie Barnes


Bognor Regis Civic Society