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  6. Minister allows caravan development in flood-risk area

Minister allows caravan development in flood-risk area

Communities secretary Eric Pickles has approved proposals for the siting of 41 six-berth caravans intended for use by agricultural workers at a farm close to the Wash, in Lincolnshire, despite concern over flood risk voiced by the Environment Agency.

The scheme, already part completed, was called in for determination by the Secretary of State because of concern it breached national policy on flood risk. The location was in a sensitive flood zone and risked flooding from both the sea and a nearby reservoir.

Although the proposals from Staples Vegetable Ltd, a major local employer and a key source of brassica supplies, were backed by the local planning authority the Environment Agency objected and argued for an alternative site for the caravans.

The inspector who heard the inquiry recommended that the scheme, which included ancillary community facilities and protective bunds, should go ahead despite the agency’s reservations.

The SoS agreed with the inspector. In the decision letter Pickles acknowledged that the plans introduced “highly vulnerable development” into a flood zone.

But he concluded that “when the existing bunds are taken into account the site is adequately protected from flooding from the sea, although there is a very low risk of flooding from the reservoir. However, there is no conflict with the development plan, there is no available, developable, or otherwise suitable, alternative location for the development, the site is adequately defended against flooding when the appropriate breach parameters are used, and proper account has been taken of managing residual flood risk.”

The minister concluded that the benefits of the development, in particular the sustainability benefits, outweighed the conflict with national policy on development and flood risk.

However, he decided to grant only a five-year temporary permission, arguing that this would provide the opportunity for the scheme to be reassessed in a relatively short period should circumstances change.

Read the decision letter and inspector’s report.

Roger Milne

31 March 2011