Dear Ms Hunt

I am writing, as EDDC councillor for Ottery St Mary Rural, part of which includes Feniton, to express my concern over the repeated flooding that Feniton has been experiencing and the EA’s involvement in planning applications for the village.

Not only is Feniton experiencing repeated and serious flooding problems, it also appears to be attracting developers like moths to a candle flame, despite the fact that it is allocated just 35 houses until 2026 in the EDDC draft Local Plan.

And 50 houses have already been allowed on appeal (decision in Sept 2012) on a field that water pours off during heavy rain.

I am hoping that Feniton will receive a flood defence scheme within the next 18 months – certainly EDDC has pledged £500,000 and a bid is going to the project appraisal board on 29 January for a further half a million. 

Feniton’s flood defence scheme has been costed at approximately £1.6m and developers (there are currently in the region of almost 200 new houses under consideration by EDDC in two separate planning applications and even more are expected) are most keen to offer funding towards such a scheme. 

Inevitably, their offerings are small in comparison to the required £1.6m and there is a legitimate concern in the village, that I share, that any new development is likely to make matters worse, while offering a drop in the ocean (if you’ll pardon the pun) towards the scheme.

As I understand it, the flood defence scheme is costed, calculated on the current number of homes in the village.  If EDDC opts to approve the developments currently on the table, (which is a real possibility) then we have hundreds of new houses and the likelihood of a more expensive flood defence scheme to fund.  Feniton is surely then in the invidious position of a never ending game of catch up.

I should explain here that EDDC has recently lost two major appeals (at Feniton and Ottery St Mary) and currently has its planning policy under consideration.  The message we have received from planning officers is that EDDC will find it difficult to reject almost all large-scale housing developments for some time to come.

So I was worried when I read the response by an EA representative to an application currently submitted for 120 houses by Strategic Land Partnerships on land west of Ottery Road, Feniton.  The language used by the EA representative was strongly in support of the planning application on the basis that developers would mitigate flooding at Sweethams and Metcombe Cottages. 

However, an urgent solution to this particular problem (behind Sweethams and Metcombe Cottages) is already being sought by EDDC, well in advance of the full flood defence scheme being realised. 

Clearly, strongly supportive comments such as this one, will give a huge boost to the developer, and provides EDDC with more difficulty in rejecting such an application, despite it being for a very large number of houses, that will swamp Feniton’s infrastructure.

My plea to the EA, is that staff who comment on planning applications, particularly in Feniton, which has such serious flooding problems, likely to be exacerbated further by development, really need to be careful what language they use in their comments and wherever possible, need to outline exactly what problems could be caused by the proposed development. 

In addition, I think it is only fair that there is not an assumption that the developers way forward (ie a cost contribution to a flood defence scheme) is the ONLY way forward, given the strenuous efforts to provide a flood defence scheme by all agencies, for Feniton.

I would be grateful for an EA representative to visit land next to Acland Park in Feniton, which is subject to an application for 32 dwellings. 

Although it falls under the one hectare threshold (the land is 0.6ha), as you will gather from the size of the land, the houses will be very packed in, if approved.  And there is very real concern that this development could cause flooding, with objections submitted previously from EDDC’s Streetscene and concern expressed from DCC Highways.

I do hope that you understand my position and the concerns of many Feniton residents.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Best wishes

Claire Wright