Clenchwarton housing scheme sunk by flood fears

Former Fosters S&SC site at Clenchwarton ANL-150713-090746009

Former Fosters S&SC site at Clenchwarton ANL-150713-090746009

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A fresh battle looks set to be fought over housing plans for an old village sports ground after councillors rejected new plans for the land today.

A High Court judge upheld an inspector’s decision to grant planning permission for 40 properties on part of the Fosters sports ground site in Clenchwarton last year.

But the West Norfolk Council planning committee voted overwhelmingly to refuse permission for a further 40 homes on the site this morning, because of flood risk concerns.

The decision was made despite officers recommending the scheme be approved, subject to the completion of legal agreements relating to affordable housing provision.

Although the Environment Agency has not objected to the scheme, the meeting was told that projections of the expected level of flooding that would occur if the area’s tidal defences failed had risen from 1.2 metres to up to two metres under latest modelling assessments.

Although officials clarified that assessment was not confined to that site, committee chairman Vivienne Spikings was one of many members who expressed concerns over the issue.

She said: “These levels are frightening. Lives have to be more important than homes.”

Earlier, resident Stephen Brown, who opposes the scheme, urged the council to re-open the legal argument over the initial scheme and take the matter to the European courts or seek a public inquiry on the matter.

He said people considering buying any homes in the area should be made aware of the flood risks and pointed out that residents in nearby Hall Road are also experiencing flooding problems from newly-built homes there.

He added: “To allow more building in a known flood risk area is ludicrously irresponsible.”

But Richard Brown, speaking on behalf of the site’s owners, Elm Park Holdings, reiterated the Environment Agency’s position and stated that the parish council had also raised no objections to the scheme

He pointed out that the borough council’s legal team had dropped their objection on flood risk grounds during the earlier court case.

He added: “The proposals are safe.”

Several committee members questioned whether the case for the application should be reassessed in the light of the recent floods that have devastated other parts of the country.

But Martin Storey argued that the decision had to be based on the local issues.

He said: “It’s difficult to see where we can go with this other than the recommendations. We can all think from the heart, but decisions have to be made from the head.”

Geoff Hall, the council’s director of planning, admitted officers did not feel particularly comfortable with their recommendation.

However, he also warned it could be difficult for the authority to justify refusal at any subsequent appeal, because the inspector who approved the earlier proposal had acknowledged there was an existing flood risk.

But former borough mayor Elizabeth Watson said she felt the committee was being put under “undue pressure” to approve housing developments in unsustainable locations.