• Feniton flood defence scheme could cost £1.6m

    17th May 2012 | News | Claire
  • East Devon District Council engineer, Keith Steel and Environment Agency officer, George Arnison attended Feniton Parish Council’s meeting, to give an update on plans for a flood defence scheme.

    I attended as the EDDC ward member for the part of Feniton nearest Ottery St Mary, which includes a piece of land subjected to a planning application for 120 houses, refused by EDDC last December.

    There is a huge and understandable concern among Feniton residents about flooding, following the devastating flooding of October 2008.

    There are many developers interested in building houses at Feniton. 

    Hundreds of houses are proposed via a series of planning applications and appeals at various stages.

    A campaign – Fight for Feniton’s Future – aimed at resisting excessive development in the village was launched last year, by concerned residents.

    So far, large-scale applications have been rejected by EDDC (as they have elsewhere), largely because such applications could undermine the adopted Local Plan, because they are for development outside Feniton’s built-up area boundary. 

    Any approval for such an application could weaken the protections of EDDC’s adopted Local Plan.

    One application for 50 houses next to Louvigny Close, is now the subject of an appeal.

    Around 35 houses until 2026, are allocated for Feniton in EDDC’s new draft Local Plan.

    The new draft Local Plan is unlikely to be adopted until later next year.

    The existing (adopted) Local Plan became out-of-date in December 2011 and as a result, is at a vulnerable stage, which developers are currently exploiting. 

    A fourth legal challenge against a planning refusal, citing the out-of-date Local Plan among other issues, has just been mounted and will be heard via public inquiry in the next few weeks.

    It is clear that building any more houses in Feniton could increase the risk of flooding to properties.

    At the Feniton Parish Council meeting on Monday evening, Mr Steel and Mr Arnison produced a spreadsheet, detailing how the £1.6m scheme might be funded.

    They outlined two options to counteract the problems.  The first option involved digging two large lagoons – one next to Louvigny Close and the other to the north of Station Road, where the stream starts, to collect floodwater, but this was not thought to be the most effective option, although it would be less expensive.

    The favoured option involved constructing a new pipe to Station Road which would tunnel under the railway line and past Metcombe and Sweethams Cottages on Ottery Road. 

    The underground pipes would then release the water in a ditch in an area where there was no danger of it flooding Feniton properties.

    This will cost around £1.6m to achieve.

    The main discussion on Monday evening revolved around where the money might come from to fund this scheme.

    Last year East Devon District Council slashed its £33,000 budget for flood defence.  The move was vigorously opposed by Cllrs Roger Giles and Trevor Cope. 

    But the majority of the council voted through the plan.

    A link to a contemporary local newspaper article on the story, is here:  http://www.edp24.co.uk/news/politics/33k_east_devon_flood_prevention_cash_cut_1_813609#.T7QavUaeTd4.email

    It was thought that half the funding might be available from the Environment Agency as a grant from the Department for Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).  But this would be dependent on the scheme receiving approval by the Environment Agency project appraisal board, which meets in June.

    Councillors and residents were informed that if the DEFRA project board did not agree the funding at their June meeting, the money (which was by no means a certainty), would be held up for a year.

    Councillors and residents were warned that the scheme details might not be submitted to the project appraisal board in time for the June meeting.

    There was a concern that submission to the project appraisal board in June 2013, rather than in June 2012, might have a less favourable outcome.

    Councillor Brown said he would lobby EDDC for flood defence money. 

    EDDC has already agreed its budgets for this financial year.

    He said that in his view, Feniton needed more development in order to fund a flood defence scheme.  There was then a debate about an existing planning application for 32 dwellings at Acland Park, outside Feniton’s built-up area boundary.

    Developers interested in building at Acland Park are offering around £64,000 to contribute to the flood defence scheme.

    Many residents at the meeting were worried that with the best part of £1m still to be found even if the Environment Agency/DEFRA funded half the flood defence scheme, any further development at this stage would simply worsen the problem. 

    They queried what the hurry was with the Acland Park application.

    But Cllr Brown said there was a ‘huge hurry’ to secure an approval for the Acland Park development because of the public inquiry appeal (for 50 houses) by Wainhomes at Louvigny Close. 

    He added that the ‘package’ the developers were offering was good and that residents couldn’t keep saying a ‘blanket no’ to planning applications.

    In a heated exchange involving raised voices, parish councillor, Nick Spence told Cllr Brown that residents and the council had not been giving a ‘blanket no’ to development, they were trying to protect themselves from being flooded. 

    Cllr Spence added that the parish council were happy with the 35 houses allocated by EDDC, but Feniton was the subject of many large-scale applications. 

    Cllr Brown said that if the Acland Park development was approved quickly, this could be used by EDDC to argue against the Louvigny Close appeal for 50 houses and could help residents argue against other proposals. 

    The three legal challenges, based on similar issues to the Wainhomes appeal, have been against refusals for applications at West Hill, Tipton St John and Lympstone. 

    Each one was dismissed by a planning inspector.

    He then read out a letter from planning officer, James Brown, who asked if Feniton Parish Council would be interested in being consulted about the best site for accommodating 35 houses in the next month or two, which would be at a timetable considerably earlier than other villages.  The rest of East Devon villages will be consulted about sites for development in the autumn.

    The earlier time frame reflects an acknowledgement of the increasing pressure Feniton is under from developers.

    Tiverton and Honiton MP, Neil Parish, has written on a number of occasions to EDDC expressing his concerns about Feniton’s flooding and development pressures.  In his latest letter to the Planning Inspectorate he has set out his worries about the Louvigny Close (Wainhomes) appeal. 

    He said: “There was serious flooding in Feniton in 2008 and no solution has been found to alleviate the risk of further flooding in the village.  At the time of the floods there were several residents living in bungalows who had to retreat to their lofts because the flood waters were so deep.  I am extremely concerned that more development in Feniton, while there is no solution to the flooding problem, is unacceptable.”

    The Louvigny Close application is contrary to EDDC’s adopted Local Plan, a key reason for its refusal.

    Feniton Parish Council chairman, Martyn Smith described the Acland Park developers, which appear to be prioritising a range of funding for community facilities before their offer of funding for the flood defence scheme, as making ‘a cynical move.’

    He said that the parish council might consider supporting an application at Acland Park, but only on the understanding that no houses were built prior to the village receiving the funding promised by the developer, for the flood defence scheme.

    Photograph:  Feniton’s Ottery Road in flood.