OPEN LETTER TO LAURENCE ROBERTSON MP
As our MP you kindly sent us a questionnaire recently, asking for responses on a number of subjects, including flooding.
You may remember a year or two ago the controversial second vote by Tewkesbury Borough Councillors on whether or not to include Twigworth in the JCS development. It was voted against in October 2016, only to be brought back to Council by the executive in January 2017, with strong coaxing and careful orchestration by the Council executive to overturn the previous vote. This included a dubious flood risk presentation to Members and the executive's refusal to allow a retired professor of hydrology to address Members on behalf of the residents of Twigworth.
We have argued for years in this village - and provided clear evidence - that existing houses in this village are vulnerable to surface-water flooding which cannot be drained easily given the low gradient to the River Severn close by - especially when the river itself is also flooding. Pictures are attached.
Evidence from people living here was rejected by the JCS in 2017, and remains excluded from the official Environment Agency's flood data, despite support from Gloucestershire County Council's Flood Risk officer, who has applied (and failed) for its inclusion. The reasons behind these rejections are themselves a matter of concern.
I ask you to look at the three attached photographs of the Bovis development site, one taken yesterday, two from last February, where building has now started. We understand that flood defences are already in place!
The alarming fact is that neither flood so far this year has been anything like as serious as some we have experienced in recent times. We can only repeat our question to the authorities: when 100s of houses are built here where will the displaced water go? You will see existing houses that are vulnerable.
A number of sites very close to this one, on the same level, are under scrutiny for similar development. This only continues the madness.
We invite you to come and see for yourself so that you can understand our predicament and help prevent any further damage.
A visit in the next few days would enable you to see it in its waterlogged state.
07 OCT 2020
Drone photos (Feb 2020) by Bexcopter Drones
Photo (Oct 2020) by Helen Ford
Drone video of Bovis site (Feb 2020) by Bexcopter Drones
07 OCT 2020
ANOTHER OPEN LETTER TO LAURENCE ROBERTSON MP
I’m aware you have received correspondence on this subject from others, however, I feel this is something that must be addressed by as many people as possible. I have attached three photos taken last Sunday in Frogfurlong Lane, across the area that has been given planning permission for 100s of houses.
There are two issues - You will notice the width of the lane - hardly suitable for an influx of literally 1000s of cars (1000 houses accrues approximately 2300 cars).
This is not my main point however. I have commented many times, and been ‘poo-poo’d’ as an amateur whenever I have asked about building on what is a flood plain. By this, I mean an area that is regularly flooded. My point is that water, when it overflows a river must go somewhere. The photos that are attached show the flow of water that has burst the banks of Hatherley Brook. You will note that they are taken from a slightly raised bridge over the brook itself and the water has flowed across the fields.
We have all been assured that the flooding will not affect this area, the developers are kindly raising the level of the ground above that of any flooding. What no-one has provided an answer to is the question of where the water will go. Downstream, to a distance of only half a mile, the fields are already flooded, and there is simply nowhere for the water to go.
Residents who have lived in the area for many generations are not being listened to and being put off by comments that we are amateurs and ‘don’t understand’, or are simply being NIMBYs. In recent years there have been ever-increasing floodin; after the disastrous floods of 2007 flood defences were built but flooding to a great extent has continued since, most notably along the area of Hatherley brook, across Twigworth/Longford and Longlevens and towards Maisemore. Still no one is able or willing to actually state where the existing flood water will go to.
What accountability will there be for the individual who has signed off the planning permission, when in the future homes are damaged, belongings lost and ultimately flood insurance becomes either prohibitive or impossible?
The Rt Hon David Cameron visited the area when PM and agreed further building on the area would be unwise when he saw the flooding of the A38 around Longford and Twigworth yet continual references to this visit are ignored or simply glossed-over.
May I strongly urge you to address this subject in order to avoid future misery for residents in these areas.
Photos (Sunday, 3rd. Oct 2020) by Jonathan Rooke
09 OCT 2020
Laurence Robertson MP Addressing Residents on Flood Risks.
HOC debate on Planning and House Building
Speech by Mr Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury) (Con)
Very many colleagues have said that we need to build more houses. I am not sure that that is entirely true as a statement in itself, because the planning system so far has built very many houses. What it has not done is built the kind of houses that young people in particular can afford. It has failed in that respect, and it has also not built enough houses that older people may want to downsize into, thereby freeing up the houses they formerly lived in.
As was so very eloquently said by my constituency neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for The Cotswolds (Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown), we are building the wrong kind of housing. It is pointless to come to Gloucestershire and build more three, four or five-bedroom houses. All that does is concrete over green fields and perhaps the green belt—and, indeed, floodplains in my area, which I will come back to in a minute—and create all those extra car journeys, and we are still left with the problem. We are left with the problem because the wrong kind of houses have been built.
Of course, house building has never—certainly not in living memory—been a free market, open-ended way of going about business; there have always been restrictions. However, when the state does intervene—and I think it is right that the state should intervene in planning—it needs to make sure that it intervenes in the right way. We really do need to get away from this idea that having more and more houses therefore makes them more affordable. In itself, it will not, and we have to think beyond just the housing numbers.
We also have to think about where we are building those houses. Tomorrow, I am visiting an area in my constituency called Twigworth, just north of Gloucester, and I am visiting it because very many fields there are flooded. That is not unusual in my constituency, which has always had a lot of flooding problems. The reason for visiting those flooded fields is that there are diggers on them: 500 houses are being built on those fields. It is ridiculous. If we are going to go forward with this algorithm or any other system that insists that my area builds thousands and thousands of houses, I have to tell the Government that those houses will be built in flood risk areas and on the green belt. Does that not go against the policies that this Government and the party I support also have about protecting such areas?
Councils, as I understand it from the White Paper, will be given the opportunity to designate certain land as protected, but will that protected land take precedence over the housing numbers when they are handed down by the Government? I do not think that it will. As things stand, I think that the housing numbers will take precedence. That is wrong and it goes against what we stand for as a party. We want more affordable houses, we have to redefine what “affordable” means and we have to build them in the right places.
Courtesy of House of Commons Hansard 8th October 2020
08 OCT 2020