A 2012 Water Cycle Study commissioned by Uttlesford District Council (Hyder Consulting UK Ltd, section 1.3) shows that Saffron Walden’s water supply will be placed under insurmountable pressure from any proposed development as there is no further ‘process capacity’. Apparently it is ‘Understood that extensive upgrades are required’ in order to support 880 new dwellings, let alone the new proposed Local Plan development sites such as Ridgeons, and any additional business or from increased service users coming into the area.
The report recommends [section 13.3] that:
‘UDC should look at the availability of water and wastewater infrastructure as a planning condition, so that planning permission is not granted until developers have consulted…regarding network capacity and possible strategic solutions” .
The report also says that sewerage network upgrades would take 5 years to implement (10 years for a major expansion or new sewerage works) and therefore:
“…development phasing and planned development trajectories to meet Local Plan targets should clearly allow for the lead in time involved in investigating, planning and constructing the required key infrastructure needs”.
This is clearly not the case with regard to deliverability of housing in Saffron Walden where UDC state the 457 of their proposed new houses could be achieved in 1-5 years of their Local Plan (backdated) start date of 2011 (i.e. by 2016). They have not planned for, let alone even started, any new or upgraded sewerage works. So how can new housing be approved for Saffron Walden when UDC already know than new householders won’t be able to flush their toilets for 5 years?
Floods. A bad omen
In February 2014, after weeks of storms, the east of Saffron Walden flooded. The surrounding farmland had become saturated, and with nowhere to go, water ran off the fields and into the storm sewers, which were quickly overwhelmed. But it’s not like it was a surprise – both Hyder Consulting and Anglia Water had both already expressed their concerns about capacity.
Floods by the farmland where Kier are proposing 300 new homes
The floods weren’t caused by a lack of maintenance because in the previous year the council had replaced the culvert on Elizabeth Way, and dredged both the rivers at the bottom of the Common and Bridge End. It was down to surface run off.
Floods on Victoria Avenue, downhill from the proposed Kier development
The thing is that UDC is proposing to concrete over this same farmland with 1,000 new homes, some of which they have already approved. Once there are new housing estates on the land, there will be nowhere left for rain water to soak into. It will always run off down the storm network. And it is unlikely to need weeks to rain to cause floods, because none of it will soak in.
Map of Storm Network and February 2014 Saffron Walden Floods
Yet again, this is another reason why building on the east of Saffron Walden is such a poor idea.
The Council Are Legally Liable
And who is responsible? Councils can be sued for allowing over development where it causes flooding. There is precedent, and it was set by Ryeford Homes v Sevenoaks District Council (1990), where a claim was made for damages against the planning authority in respect of flooding caused by allowing-over-development. Sound familiar? This recent letter from the Guardian references some of the cases.