Help us stop housing schemes on flood plains, West Norfolk MP pleads

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

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

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Senior environmental officials have been urged to do more to stop large housing developments being built in high flood risk areas.

The plea was made by North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham during a floods summit held in Downham yesterday.

The question of how to balance flood risk against the need to build houses has come into sharper focus in West Norfolk in recent months.

That followed the borough council’s High Court defeat in its bid to block planning permission for 40 homes on the old Foster’s sports ground site in Clenchwarton.

An application for another 40 homes was rejected by the council this week, although it is likely the developer, Elm Park Holdings, will appeal.

Sir Henry did not directly refer to the Fosters case, but said the authority had been “pretty vigilant” against schemes that could cause future flooding problems.

But he suggested the issue was not as high a priority when applications are taken to appeal.

He said: “We know the Planning Inspectorate is under pressure to pass applications.

“I’d like to suggest the Environment Agency does take a more proactive role at the appeal stage.”

The agency’s acting chairman, Emma Howard-Boyd, and chief executive Sir James Bevan were at the meeting to hear Sir Henry’s comments.

Sir James told the meeting: “It will always be our position to object to development on flood plains.”

However, the agency did not object to the Fosters application, leading planning officials to admit to councillors that, although they were recommending approval, they did not feel comfortable doing so.