Derbyshire councillors demand clarity over unanswered flooding questions

Councillors resisted pressure to push amendments through for a controversial Derbyshire housing development over unanswered flooding questions – despite fears for the council’s legal position.

By Christina Massey
Friday, 17th December 2021, 1:59 pm
The development in Clay Lane, Clay Cross
The development in Clay Lane, Clay Cross

What should have been a simple application to make minor layout changes to the development in Clay Lane, Clay Cross, led to discord when members of North East Derbyshire District Council’s Planning Committee clashed with senior planning officers over contradictory flood risk information.

This came weeks after an independent legal advisor informed the council that refusal of the application was likely to result in a successful appeal by developer Woodall Homes, leaving the authority liable for costs.

As the Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA), Derbyshire County Council, had outlined no increased risk of flood in this case, councillors were asked to ignore the previous concerns raised over flooding in the original application, however several members commented that they believed it was relevant.

Referring to the report, Councillor David Hancock said: “It does tell us, and I’ve got no reason to doubt it, that both our planning officers and the LLFA suggest there’s no further risk.

“The key thing which occurs to me is where it says ‘as matters have progressed it has become apparent that the developer’s representation was incorrect’.

“So what you’re telling us on one hand is that there is no further risk, but the risk assessment is done based on information which was incorrect.”

Councillor William Armitage added he didn’t believe a water tank put on the site by the developer was sufficient to effectively mitigate the potential flood risk, saying the adjacent Press Brook needed to be dredged to properly address the matter.

However stepping in from outside the committee, Assistant Director of Planning Richard Purcell commented: “They’ve added that tank to address an issue that has been raised, not because they have needed to do that as part of the application that they want to see approved.”

Referring to the flooding issue, he stated: “The legal framework for this type of application does not allow this issue to be given weight because there is no difference between this application on this issue and the approved one.”

A vote to approve the application was lost.

Cllr Hancock commented: “What we’ve got is a mess and we’ve been put in a catch 22 situation of being asked to approve something that we’ve been told the original information is incorrect.

“We need correct information.”

He added that he didn’t think officers should put the committee in ‘this position’.

A motion to defer the decision and seek clarification over the flooding risk was carried, with six members voting for, two against and three abstaining.