Campaigners against inappropriate development say recent flooding events show why housing should not be built on Chester’s flood plain.
Andy Scargill, chair of the Friends of North Chester Greenbelt, says computer modelling shows the overtopping of the city’s defences would flood a significant part of the Sealand basin.
This was after Cheshire West and Chester Council narrowly backed the scheme but the decision was ‘called in’ by the Secretary of State after Sport England objected to the loss of playing fields. A decision is awaited from the inquiry inspector.
And developers Bloor Homes and Sealand Commercial Properties Limited have submitted proposals for 130 homes on the other side of Clifton Drive, also in the flood plain.
Mr Scargill says recent flooding events in Cumbria, North Wales, Manchester, Lancashire and Yorkshire shows why the government must place an immediate moratorium on building in flood plains. And he compared Chester with Croston in Lancashire where the River Douglas burst its banks causing the village to be submerged and without power.
He said in a statement: “The Sealand basin is a fragile environmental infrastructure through which flows the River Dee, enclosed within an 18th century canal not unlike the River Douglas. A Welsh Environment Agency report in 2010 recognised the overtopping of the raised defences as a potential flood risk.
“Similarly a 2008 paper commissioned by the then Chester City Council also recognised a risk to flooding from either this or a breach of the canal. Modelling has shown that either an overtopping of the defences or a breach within them would flood a significant part of the basin; including the area where Bark Street would like to build 142 houses and Bloor Homes a further 130.
“Recent events have convinced us more and more that the Government must immediately put in place a moratorium on building on flood plains as part of a package of proposals to deal properly with the all too frequent issue of flooding in urban areas.”
Bark Street Investments argue their proposals accord with borough’s development plan ‘as a whole’. The fact the local planning authority can demonstrate a five-year housing supply does not mean the new housing would not bring major benefits. The Environment Agency has not objected on flooding grounds.
And the developers argue the playing fields are ‘surplus’ to the requirements of the University of Chester leaseholders who will receive a percentage of the profits.
The application site will remain redundant and make ‘no contribution at all to sporting function’ while the sports mitigation package will bring ‘major benefits’ for Blacon and Chester.