ARUN’S top councillor for planning has assured the authority that flood risks around proposed new housing will be taken seriously.
Cllr Ricky Bower, Arun District Council’s cabinet member for planning and infrastructure, said the threats from flooding were to form one of the main considerations when deciding which sites would be earmarked for the large-scale housing developments.
This is in spite of Arun’s decision to approve the controversial Courtwick development of 600 new homes on a flood plain – work on which is now underway.
Speaking at a special full council meeting last Tuesday, Cllr Bower said: “The issue of flooding on strategic sites is one which was considered when it came to the local plan sub-committee dealing with these sites.
“It was largely for that reason that we, as a council, decided to send strategic sites back for further consideration.”
Cllr Bower said the Environment Agency had a significant role to play in enabling schemes in places likely to be flooded – contrary to comments in the national media made by the agency’s chairman, Lord Smith.
“I would point out the Environment Agency is a statutory consultee on planning developments. When they tell us, against local knowledge, that it’s ‘no problem’ we have to accept it.”
He said that going against the agency’s advice, and refusing a scheme, could lead to the council being defeated by site developers at a planning appeal.
Councillor Dr James Walsh said the flooding across the south and south-west showed it was vital to avoid development in flood-risk areas.
He said: “I want to be absolutely re-assured there is significant recognition of the danger posed by building on or near a flood plain.
“The River Arun, Aldingbourne Rife, Ferring Rife and the Black Ditch are extremely prone to flooding, particularly in times of high rainfall.
“I want to be reassured that nothing in our plans is actually going to commit, allow or encourage developers to build on or near flood plains and I am far from satisfied that this is the case.”
The comments were made as councillors agreed most of Arun’s draft local plan.
Matters such as the strategic gaps, retail areas, building design and the natural environment were unanimously backed.
Controversial issues such as the sites of large-scale housing schemes to meet the council’s target of 580 homes a year for 15 years were not considered.
They are set to be looked at by the council’s local plan sub-committee early next month and debated by all councillors at the end of April.
Last Tuesday’s meeting was streamed live on the council’s website, with about 84 people viewing the proceedings.