Decision status: Recommendations Approved
Is Key decision?: No
Is subject to call in?: No
Note- Councillor Susanne Long declared a non-pecuniary interest in this item by virtue of the fact she had been a Member of Kendal Town Council Planning Committee and having regard to bias and/or predetermination, she left the meeting during discussion on the item.
Councillors John Holmes and Rupert Audland declared a non-pecuniary interest in this item by virtue of the fact they were SLDC Outside Body representatives on South Lakes Housing and having regard to bias and/or predetermination they left the meeting during discussion on the item.
Off-site surface storage basin to help reduce the extent of flooding experienced during times of extreme rainfall to the front of nos.102 and 104 Low Garth (South Lakes Housing)
The Planning Officer presented Planning Application No. SL/2019/0138 which sought permission to undertake earthworks to establish a water storage basin to intercept overland exceedance flows which currently passed through the garden of 15 High Sparrowmire, therefore ameliorating a known flood risk further to the southeast of the area around Nos. 102 and 104 Low Garth. He drew Members’ attention to errors within the report which referred to planning policies not relevant to the application. He referred to the site visit and displayed plans and photographs which detailed the proposal.
The Planning Officer highlighted the link between South Lakes Housing’s planning application for 26 dwellings on an allocated site and he stated that the decision on the surface water storage basin would influence the applicant’s approach to the proposed housing scheme. He went on to outline the proposals of the scheme which would involve a cut-and fill engineering operation to create a detention basin with a uniform depth of 400 mm. The land around the proposed basin would be altered and the excavated material would be used to form a low bund on the eastern and southern boundaries. The Planning Officer displayed plans which outlined the various sections of the proposed scheme and referred to the history of flooding on the Hallgarth Estate. Photographs were displayed which highlighted the surface water run-off from agricultural land, the penetration of the water through perimeter walls and where water pooled. He went on to make reference to the report from R.G. Parkins and Partners Ltd and highlighted the calculations within the report in relation to the total volumetric storage, the level of the proposed discharge pipe and assumptions regarding flow rates through the garden of 15 High Sparrowmire. The Planning Officer informed Members that 15 High Sparrowmire had suffered internal flooding in 2012 and 2015 and following the 2015 flooding, South Lakes Housing had undertaken remedial works within the curtilage. He went on to explain that on the occasions when the detention basin would fill with water it would be to a depth of no greater than 400mm and that the applicants were confident that the capacity of the basin would be sufficient to intercept all of the water flowing through 15 High Sparrowmire and in the event that the basin was overtopped 120m³ of water would be held back. In addition the basin had been designed so that the intercepted water would be held in the basin until it naturally filtered into the water table, which was expected to take no more than 24 hours. In summarising the application the Planning Officer stated that there were undeniable benefits offered by the scheme and that the benefits needed to be outweighed against the alterations to the physical characteristics of the area and the loss of the small crab apple tree. The Planning Officer went on to address concerns regarding the slow drainage of the basin in that the basin would turn into a smelly and unhygienic puddle, and he labelled these concerns as unfounded, as the rate at which the water would drain into the water table would not allow this. He went on to state that the risk of drowning had been acknowledged and that paragraph 95 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) stated that ‘planning policies and decisions should promote public safety…’ In addition the applicant’s agent had confirmed that the scheme would be subject to a separate sustainable drainage system (SuD) risk assessment using the criteria established in the CIRIA SuDs Manual. The Planning Officer concluded his presentation by highlighting to the Committee that this application was the result of the need to find an acceptable solution to the surface water discharge from a separate development for 26 dwellings. However, he stressed that the merits of this housing scheme should have no bearing on the application for the basin, despite the fact that the separate application for 26 dwellings, would be impacted by the decision made on the application.
Councillor Jon Owen, Ward Member for Kendal North, addressed the committee. Speaking on behalf of his ward he declared that he was objecting to the application. Councillor Owen informed the Committee that he supported the residents of his Ward who had compelling concerns and seemed to have a good understanding of the flooding and drainage issues in their area. He asked for Members to pay attention and to give them due consideration before forming their opinions. He confirmed that he had engaged with the residents and had been impressed by knowledge of what was a complex scheme. Councillor Owen highlighted the loss of amenity land and the failure to invest in a surface water system. He referred to the Local Lead Flood Authority and the fact that no one doubted the hydrologic inadequacies on the Hallgarth Estate. He concluded his address by stating that it was vital to find investment for a better surface water drainage system before increasing the number of houses in the area and he urged the Committee to listen to the residents and to consider if it was right to approve a scheme which would open the door to new housing in the area and he stated that a failure to invest properly in a ground and surface water drainage system was a sticking plaster approach.
Joanne Miller, a local resident, addressed the Committee. She stated that the 50 year old Hallgarth drainage system could not cope with the rainy climate in Kendal, furthermore the upgrading of this system would be incredibly expensive so neither Cumbria County Council nor United Utilities (UU) were willing to invest in the overhaul of the drainage system. Ms Miller went on to state that South Lakes Housing were adding to the problem, by proposing to build new houses which would overload the system and add more water to an already overflowing surface water drainage issue. She informed the committee that had the housing scheme not been proposed, the land would not need or receive any help or changes. Ms Miller stated that she was fairly certain that the land would be left to flood if South Lakes Housing did not have an interest in the area. She went on to inform the Committee that the years 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2015 all brought heavy rainfall and flooding but some other smaller events had also caused flooding issues. Ms Miller stated that the application had been mooted to “help” two houses but would put the rest of the estate at risk from further flooding. She went on to quote the engineer who had said that the scheme “would not solve the pre-existing historical drainage and flooding issues in the estate.” Furthermore, Ms Miller went on to inform Members that she had been in correspondence with a number of officers at Cumbria County Council who had been vague in their responses when asked about the re-contouring of the land and the potential testing of the basin. She went on to highlight the advice from the Planning Officer, which had been to consider the application as a stand-alone application. Ms Miller informed Members that she hoped that on a stand-alone basis, the basin would be tested. Furthermore, Ms Miller highlighted the use of the word ‘betterment’ which had been used frequently and she pointed out to Members that nothing could be conceived as being better until it had been tried. Concluding her speech Ms Miller informed the Committee that the operations and management plan would last only for the duration of South Lakes Housing’s ownership, which meant that the responsibility for maintenance would no longer be their responsibility if the houses were sold and that policy dictated that there must be detailed maintenance for the lifetime of the development. In conclusion Ms Miller referred to the words of Members of Kendal Town Council who described the proposal as “ludicrous”, “totally ridiculous” and also said simply, that the “drains were not fit for purpose”. Ms Miller finished by asking Members to use their common sense and reinforced her view that the application should not be passed.
Councillor Chris Rowley, Kendal Town Councillor representing the Green Party for Kendal Strickland, addressed the Council. He commenced his address by informing the Committee that he had been very impressed with the decision making at both Parish Council and District Council levels. Councillor Rowley stated that he commended the work done, with good arguments on both sides of the debate. He continued by stating that he believed that the Hallgarth Estate had largely been neglected in terms of flood prevention, due to the fact that it was not affected as such, by riverine flooding. He stated that he believed that decision making should be evidenced based. Councillor Rowley went on to inform the Committee that his observations of decision making showed that at each stage of an application, new information was revealed and that a decision which appeared to be correct in the early stages, based on the available evidence, may become a mistake later, when new evidence came to light. Councillor Rowley stated that the land had been chosen for the housing scheme as it was owned by South Lakeland District Council and the housing scheme application had led to the application for the storage basin. Councillor Rowley concluded by stating that, the correct decision was to reject this proposal which would make it clear to United Utilities that Hallgarth deserved a drainage system to protect them, not one full of sticking plasters which hide behind flood prevention, and that despite the obvious need for affordable housing in Kendal, he asked the Committee to reject this proposal and stated that he looked forward to seeing a future proposal that set out to solve the Hallgarth flooding problem properly.
Paul Naylor, a local resident, addressed the Committee in opposition to the application. He commenced his address by informing Members that part of his Royal Navy Fire Chief Training was to learn about hydraulics and pump flow rates. He stated that the water flow would damage and overburden the basin and increase the flood risk downhill. Mr Naylor highlighted the statistics that every year 10 children, under five years old, drowned in ponds and ditches and that it was not a risk of drowning, it was a certainty. Mr Naylor then argued that South Lakes Housing had contributed to the field water run-off to 15 Sparrowmire and he then questioned why the drains at High Sparrowmire and Low Garth did not dispose of the water and he revealed that he had seen some drain covers that were fully blocked by grass. Mr Naylor concluded by stating that the only solution was to fix and improve the existing drains and that the proposed scheme did not offer improvement or betterment and it should be rejected.
Richard Smith, a local resident, addressed the Committee. He stated that the Committee was discussing the proposal because South Lakes Housing wanted to build a housing estate and did not want to pay for the proper drainage solutions. Mr Smith advised Members that the basin would become a muddy, unhygienic and smelly pond and would not serve as a proper drainage basin. Furthermore he argued that the basin had been designed to hold water and that placing it on amenity land, where children played was dangerous and irresponsible. Mr Smith moved on to inform the Committee that there was a risk of disease in standing water and the water held in the basin would be run off water from fields used for grazing livestock and therefore the standing water would be infected with cattle urine as well as any diseases that would develop naturally in standing water. Mr Smith went on to inform Members that he felt that safety was a major issue which was currently being overlooked. He reinforced the point that people die in water and outlined statistics from 2011, where there were 22 fatalities, 10 of which were children under the age of 4. Mr Smith concluded his presentation by arguing that the proposed basin was untried, untested and based on theory. He went on to question the claim of providing “betterment” to residents and stated that the only thing that was clear was the health and safety risk to the local children and there was no guarantee of solving the underlying issue of surface and ground water drainage. In conclusion Mr Smith quoted the designer of the surface water storage basin who had stated that “offsite works would not solve the flooding problems” and Mr Smith stated that what was on offer was not fit for purpose and he asked Members why allow the application, when it would not solve the issue and why not provide proper drainage?
Amena Cassagne, a local resident, addressed the Committee. She began by stating that the application appeared to be aimed at aiding the flooding in Low Garth and did nothing to help the issues faced by the rest of the Hallgarth Estate. Ms Cassagne continued by suggesting that South Lakes Housing wanted to offset extra water from the proposed new housing development by draining it into the proposed basin. She advised Members that Network Rail had flatly refused, as was their right as a consultee. Ms Cassagne then asserted that the residents of High Sparrowmire and Low Garth did not have the right to reject the proposal as Network Rail did and that the supposed “betterment” was only theory. She informed Members that the figure quoted in the report on drainage, did not take into account rain water and other sources of water that would fall directly into the basin, which meant that the calculations did not add up and the basin would overflow, more regularly into the already overburdened drainage system. Ms Cassagne then referred to a similar event at Rydal Road, Kendal, where a drainage basin, similar to the proposed basin at High Sparrowmire, had overflowed due to water flowing off the hills, which resulted in residents having to knock down a wall in order to prevent the flooding of their homes. In concluding her address, Ms Cassagne by stressed the fact that the basin was only being brought for consideration to the Members so that 26 new homes could be built by South Lakes Housing, and she reminded Members that the residents of Hallgarth would have to live with the consequences of the decision made by the Committee.
Lee Gillies, a local resident, addressed the Committee. He began by highlighting the South Lakes Housing application to build 26 new houses at the top of the Hallgarth Estate. Mr Gillies asserted that the application would destroy a parcel of land that acted as a natural flood defence and soakaway that offered protection from flooding for the residents of the Hallgarth Estate. Furthermore, in order to push the housing scheme, South Lakes Housing had been forced to address the damage that the proposed development would create. Mr Gillies labelled the application for an off-site storage basin as a very weak result of an attempt to appease both Council stipulations and resident’s concerns. He continued by highlighting to Members that this proposed housing development was the only reason that the application for the basin existed. Mr Gillies continued by informing the Committee that the Planning Officer had admitted that the link between the two developments was explicit, but had no relevance to the merits of the surface water storage basin scheme. In addition Mr Gillies quoted the designer of the proposed basin who stated the “the proposed off-site works will not solve the pre-existing historical drainage and flooding issues experienced in the Hallgarth Estate". Mr Gillies continued by stating that there was very little merit in the scheme as it stood alone and added that if the scheme stood on its own merits, it would have been proposed years ago to address the issue and as it stood the application for the basin had only been put forward now to aid the application for the Housing Development. Mr Gillies then stated that the residents of Hallgarth deserved better than this. He went on to argue that, until a comprehensive review and infrastructure upgrade could be implemented on the Hallgarth Estate, it was worrying that South Lakes Housing would even consider proposing a potentially destructive planning application. Mr Gillies then highlighted that within the Planning Officer’s report, the figures, flow rates and measurements were simply estimations and assumptions. He concluded his address by asking the Committee to not inflict more real misery and disruption on the residents of Hallgarth, based on assumptions and estimations from the people looking to make a profit with these schemes. Mr Gillies continued by asking Members to put the welfare of Kendal residents above all else and to help them to progress the infrastructure in a way that which enhanced the community and not to degrade people’s lives for the sake of hitting housing targets. He ended with a final plea to the Members, to do the right thing for the Hallgarth community and reject the application.
Note- The proceedings were adjourned at 12:27 p.m. due to sounding of the fire alarm and the evacuation of the Chamber.
The meeting reconvened at 12:49 p.m.
Rachel Burles, a local resident, addressed the Committee. She began by informing Members that despite wide acceptance that there were serious drainage inadequacies on the Hallgarth estate, the applicant’s plan was to try to justify adding more to the failing system from a proposed new housing development at the top of the estate. She continued by informing Members that if the proposed basin had been suggested with the sole intention of alleviating flooding on Low Garth, she probably would not be stood in front of the Committee, but it was not. Ms Burles moved on to highlight that the designers had confirmed that they had been instructed to see if the land could be utilised to reduce the risk of downstream flooding and thereby demonstrate betterment to account for additional proposed discharge into the head of the estate. Ms Burles then moved on to suggest that assuming that there would be alleviation of the flooding by implementing the basin to the extent claimed, such alleviation would then be offset by the additional flow added into the system, should the housing development be built, leaving the residents of Low Garth no better off. She then argued that even with taking the applicant’s future plans out of consideration, the applicant had not demonstrated that the proposal would achieve what it purported to. Ms Burles went on to outline assumptions included within the report regarding the rate at which the water would channel down the side of 15 Sparrowmire and into the drainage system and she suggested that it was misleading for the applicant to assume that water entered the drainage system at a median rate of 16 litres per second, thus the claims of betterment were not reliable. Ms Burles reminded the Members that all parties to this application had accepted that the basin would go no way to resolving the existing drainage and flooding issues on Hallgarth and the report had ignored the increased threat of flooding which was faced from climate change and need to look towards more long-term substantive measures, which had been stressed by the Chair of the Environment Agency in May 2019. Ms Burles concluded her address by informing the Committee that the basin represented a poor substitute for proper upgrading works to improve the drainage on the estate and that Members should not accept the proposal as a consolation, when the basin would not help to resolve the existing issues and Members certainly should not then consider adding more housing and therefore more water to the problem area.
Mr Rick Smith addressed the Committee on behalf of Celeste Bonfanti, a local resident. He began her address by which quoted from the Planning Officer’s report “the application has been prompted by the need to find an acceptable solution for dealing with the surface water discharge, from a separate development of 26 new houses, proposed by the same applicant on land to the North of High Sparrowmire.” Mr Smith went on to state that the calculations from the report were only based upon the amount of water coming from the fields and then down the side of the property at 15 Sparrowmire, and they did not take in to consideration the amount of rain water that would be held in the basin after heavy rainfall. Ms Bonfanti’s address questioned whether or not it was appropriate to add even more water into the already overloaded drains on the Hallgarth Estate. The Committee were informed that it appeared that the report had made light of the amount of water that would be held in the basin and the risk it posed to children and Mr Smith highlighted that people could and do drown in 20cm of water and that a child could drown in less than 30 seconds. In addition, water borne diseases were also more of a risk than had been indicated in the report and Ms Bonfanti’s address raised the question whether it was responsible to allow the storage basin when it posed such risks to health and safety. He concluded Ms Bonfanti’s address by stating, that the only acceptable solution was to invest in the drainage system of the Hallgarth Estate so it could cope with the vast amount of water that was put into it by field run off and other ground and surface water sources.
Ian Hoggett, a local resident addressed the Committee. He informed Members that he objected to the application and that the proposal did not create betterment. He went on to highlight the limitations of the testing which had been carried out and stated that there had been no monitoring of the water table. Mr Hoggett referred to a meeting between himself, South Lakes Housing and the applicant’s agent and he highlighted his concerns regarding the impact of rain water and the further addition of water from the proposed housing development. Mr Hoggett questioned the position of the basin, and informed the Committee that the water’s natural drainage route was towards Burneside and that the proposed basin was to be in the opposite direction. He informed Members that the agent’s report stated that the proposed basin would not solve the flooding issues on the Hallgarth Estate, but it would provide residents with some time to prepare for any potential flooding. Mr Hoggett concluded his address by stating that the application was incomplete, it was based on assumptions and estimations and as a result offered no real concrete evidence and certainly not enough to merit it being passed by the Committee.
Troy Melhuish, the applicant’s agent addressed the Committee. He informed Members that 15 High Sparrowmire had flooded on several occasions and that South Lakes Housing had completed flood mitigation measures in November 2016, the performance of which had been tested a year later. It had been identified that the public open space at the front of the properties had been under-utilised for temporary flood storage and it was also obvious that overland flows of water had been contributing to the volume of flooding experienced in Low Garth. The Agent went on to outline the solution proposed, which sought to address and mitigate the flooding mechanism, by intercepting and temporarily storing the flood water during an extreme storm event. Mr Melhuish highlighted that the basin was an incredibly simple solution that would re-profile a sloping section of land to provide a shallow, bunded, temporary storage area with a level bed. He moved on to inform the Committee that a ground investigation had confirmed that there was sufficient infiltration capacity within the underlying substrata to ensure that a permanent pond did not form. Furthermore, he added that in addition to the basin, further land drainage was to be installed, to enhance the drainage characteristic and to ensure that the public open space could be brought back into use within 24 hours. He informed the Committee, that the proposal represented an ideal location to install a simple sustainable drainage system that would reduce the volume of flooding downstream and benefit the wider community. The basin would store 120m3 of flood water and would provide residents of Low Garth valuable time to be prepared. Mr Melhuish advised Members that both the Lead Local Flood Authority and United Utilities supported the plan and recognised it as an important piece in solving the wider flooding issues to Low Garth. He then went on to advise Members that the basin would be maintained by South Lakes Housing which would be a simple task involving regular grass cutting, removal of litter, debris and leaf litter as well as frequent inspections after flood events with appropriate actions being taken as required. Mr Melhuish referred to the Health and Safety implications of the basin and stated that, under CDM Regulations 2015, a risk assessment would be undertaken. In addition he highlighted that the risk of drowning had already been assessed and was seen as negligible, as the basin would not form a permanent pond and would only ever become inundated during the most extreme storms to a maximum depth of 400mm. He went onto inform Members that the proposed location of the basin in an open area, which was overlooked by several properties which provided a high degree of natural surveillance. In concluding his address, Mr Melhuish stated that the Agents R.G. Parkins had demonstrated that the proposed temporary storage basin would provide betterment to the overall extent and depth of flooding experienced in the Low Garth area. Furthermore, he highlighted that the scheme presented an excellent opportunity to utilise an existing public open space more effectively to mitigate flooding from a well-established flooding mechanism. Finally, he requested that the Committee supported the application and thanked Members for their time.
The Planning Officer responded to questions raised by Members. He advised the Committee that a significant number of homes had access to the public open space where the proposed basin would be sited and confirmed that the reference to Network Rail was related to the separate application for the housing development and had no bearing on the application for the surface water storage basin.
In response to a question regarding a similar scheme on the Sandylands Estate, the Applicant’s Agent, with permission of the Chair, responded by informing Members that the similar scheme on Sandylands was a Russel Armer Scheme and that only part of the site had been only constructed when it had been overwhelmed during Storm Desmond and following overflow and diversion works the scheme had been up and running and fully operational.
The Planning Officer outlined details of the water ingress and overflow from the pond via pipes and went on to advise, in regards to public safety, that the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) stated that “planning policies and decisions should promote public safety.” However, detailed health and safety considerations were addressed by other legislation and would be the responsibility of the owner and manager of the site. He highlighted to Members the section of the report which referred to other possible options and went on to inform them that he had pressed United Utilities for a statement or clear response to the planning application and he had taken their lack of response as an indication of little progress having been made. The Planning Officer reiterated his earlier comment advising Members to consider the application on its own merits and not to link it to the proposed housing development. He stated that the application, in its own right, provided betterment for the community and had a clear benefit in the containment of water and the delay of risk to properties in addition to the aggregate series of filter drains which would aid drainage. In response to further questions, the Planning Officer confirmed that the responsibility of the land and operation change the responsibility would transfer to the new owner.
The Interim Development Management Team Leader explained that the NPPF, which constituted Government Planning Policies, favoured sustainable urban drainage systems which involved open water bodies and which were transient and drained down over time. The newly adopted Development Management DPD contained policies that promoted SuDS drainage systems which would apply to all new developments within the District. He stated that taken on its own merits the scheme would help to resolve a local issue and that the application for the future development of the allocated site would consider the local flood risk and this would be assessed as part of the application process.
Members thanked Officers for the well written and balanced report and acknowledged the contribution of those who addressed the Committee during public participation. Members gave consideration to the suitability of the proposal and it was felt that the proposed scheme addressed the consequences of flooding and not the cause. In addition, concerns were raised regarding health and safety risks and the ‘natural surveillance’ comments from the applicant’s agent were dismissed.
A motion to refuse the application based on the fact that the proposed scheme did not resolve the pre-existing and historical drainage issues on the Hallgarth Estate and the risks to public health was proposed and seconded and following lengthy debate and advice from the Interim Development Management Team Leader the motion to refuse the application was withdrawn.
Members went on to further consider the proposed scheme and recapped the areas of concern and agreed that there needed to be a long term solution.
A motion to grant the application was proposed and seconded and following further questions to and advice from the Interim Development Management Team Leader, Members considered the implications of an appeal, should the application be refused, and gave further consideration to the effectiveness and adequacy of the proposed scheme. The motion to grant the application was withdrawn.
Members felt that a decision on the application should be deferred at this time in order to provide the applicant and Planning Officers the opportunity to reconsider the application, to provide more information regarding the wider hydrological issues and to consider the application in a wider context.
RESOLVED- that the Planning Application SL/2019/0138 be deferred.
Note – The Committee voted to adjourn for a break at 1:50 p.m. and reconvened at 2.21 p.m. when the same Members were present with the exception of Councillors Audland and Hutton.
Publication date: 09/08/2019
Date of decision: 06/06/2019
Decided at meeting: 06/06/2019 - Planning Committee