New homes’ flood fears not assuaged

I attended the Northumberland County Council planning meeting on July 17.

One of the two outline applications being heard was from Persimmon to build 255 houses behind the Fairmoor petrol station.

The developer proposes to discharge the surface water into the Cotting Burn and (as a temporary (allegedly) measure) to build a sewage treatment plant there and discharge it also into the Burn.

After what amounted to a lot of vague promises from Persimmon to sort things out, the Committee voted three to two in favour of the application.

I have a number of concerns about the meeting: The lack of attendance by my neighbours who, like me, have been flooded by the Burn.

This may be related to the very short notice of the meeting. Although the notification letter was dated July 8, I did not receive it until July 12.

It seemed to me that the planning and development officers advising the committee did not so much present the application as promote it strongly.

The report to the Planning Committee makes much of the statement that the SUDS ponds (jargon not explained) will fulfil a ‘one-in-100-year annual probability of occurrence’.

I have no idea what the sentence means in which this phrase appears.

If it is some probability that the events of 2008 involving the Wansbeck are extremely unlikely to occur, then it is wholly irrelevant to the Burn. If it refers to the Burn, then the analysis is fatally flawed as the Burn has flooded peoples’ homes (not ‘properties’ or ‘residences’) three times in the last six years.

Do the officers have data going back 100 years?

What impact on the analysis does the fact that Australia has just decided to cease its activities to limit/reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

Do the calculations of flood risk take into account the Taylor Wimpey development of 250 houses on the Northgate Hospital site?

Do the calculations of flood risk take into account the proposed discharge of surface run-off from the new Northern bypass?

The Environment Agency have granted a ‘temporary’ permit for Persimmon to discharge treated sewage into the Burn until Northumbrian Water upgrades the sewer system in Morpeth.

How long does this ‘temporary’ permit last? Is it open-ended?

What is the timescale for Northumbrian Water to upgrade the sewer system?

Once (if) completed, what is the timescale for Persimmon to redirect the sewage from the development into the upgraded system?

What are the penalties should it fail to uphold its side of the bargain? What body will be policing this?

The location of the proposed ‘temporary’ sewage-treatment works was not specified.

This was not surprising as it had not been designed (or even thought about?).

The draft ‘blueprint’ for the site shows it fairly densely covered with houses, with no apparent space allocated (or available) for the proposed treatment works; does this mean that Persimmon will be requiring more land? If so, from where?

Is there a demand for housing?

If there is, would it be satisfied by building on the site of the existing County Hall when the Council vacates?

How many houses could be built on the County Hall site?

What is the purpose of creating a satellite community circa 2 km outside the centre of Morpeth with absolutely no facilities?

All it can be is a dormitory ‘town’ for elsewhere; how does this benefit Morpeth?

Why were repeated attempts made by the development officer to dissuade the two councillors who voted against the outline proposal on reasons of conscience from doing so?

(I have to applaud the courage of these gentlemen; I am sorry I did not catch your names).

The assurances given by various officers and Persimmon with respect to flooding are nonsense.

It is not rocket science. When the Burn is in spate during a major ‘occurrence’ it can take no more water; this is the reason it bursts its banks and causes floods.

If the developments go ahead, additional fluids (note the word ‘fluid’) will be arriving in the upper reaches of the Burn.

Any dam will only delay flooding, not alleviate it.

The SUDS”ponds are just holes filled with water, and these will still discharge into the Burn.

The ‘temporary’ sewage works will not stop functioning – people will still be going to the toilet.

I am in absolutely no doubt that my home and those of my neighbours around the Cotting Burn will be flooded again long before the decade is out, never mind 100 years.

We will be flooded because of the activities of people who are not accountable to the electors of Morpeth and of organisations who are supposed to protect us.

This time, however, it will not just be rainwater, it will be rainwater and treated sewage. When this happens, I for one will be seeking redress by legal means, and I advise my neighbours to do the same.

Paul Christensen,