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‘Extreme flood risk’ stopping new homes being built in Christchurch town centre, warns BCP Council’s draft Local Plan

EXTREME flood risk in the centre of Christchurch is preventing planned new homes from being built there.

This was the warning in BCP Council’s draft Local Plan, which sets out development sites and planning framework for the next 15 years between 2024 and 2039.

The centre of Christchurch, including the harbour, has been highlighted as a problem area in terms of flood risk, and the plan states that identified development sites cannot be brought forward until the adoption of the Christchurch Bay and Harbour Flood Strategy.

Previous flooding at Christchurch Quay (picture: Graham Wiffen)
Previous flooding at Christchurch Quay (picture: Graham Wiffen)

“Whilst we have an established strategy for Poole town centre with new flood defences planned, we are still preparing a strategy to defend Christchurch town centre and the Sandbanks Peninsula, delaying delivery of homes in these areas,” the plan states.

“A flood risk management strategy for Christchurch town centre would allow redevelopment of brownfield sites and protect existing property.”

As well as tidal flooding, the Christchurch area is also significantly affected by “fluvial flooding given the impacts of two major tidal rivers”, the River Stour and the River Avon, the document continues.

“This puts a large part of Christchurch town centre, Purewell, Stanpit and some areas to the west of Christchurch at significant flood risk,” it went on.

Previous flooding at Christchurch Quay (picture: Graham Wiffen)
Previous flooding at Christchurch Quay (picture: Graham Wiffen)

While there are existing flood defences in Christchurch, it was warned there are “significant shortfalls in funding for necessary future upgrading of [these] in view of future climate change”.

Within the town centre, sites in Stony Lane including the former civic offices and gasworks have been set aside for housing, subject to the agreement of a flood risk strategy.

“For this site to come forward, financial contributions will be needed towards flood defences to make the development safe,” the plan says.

The latest full BCP Council meeting heard members had worked with officers to significantly scale down from the government’s recommended number of homes for the three towns, which was set at 42,000.

This was due, it was said, to the various constraints on development, including extreme flood risk.

Council leader Vikki Slade said the authority had “worked hard to challenge the starting point” set by the government.

“Based on the standard methodology for calculating housing need, we were told we should build 42,000 homes,” she said. “But we disagreed with that, and it led us to set a locally derived housing figure much closer to 25,000 homes.

“This has meant we’ve been in a position to create a strategy which does not require the release of any further greenbelt sites.”

Previous flooding at Christchurch Quay (picture: Graham Wiffen)
Previous flooding at Christchurch Quay (picture: Graham Wiffen)

Turning to the lack of affordable housing across the region due to developers using financial viability assessments to argue against such provision, Cllr Sue Aitkenhead said: “Can I ask that the leader commit to the council developing a strategy that explores the different options and defines exactly how we can, within this plan, provide the affordable homes that are so desperately needed in our area.”

The draft Local Plan, which will now go out for public consultation, sets out the projected number of homes to be built in each Christchurch ward.

The largest number will be concentrated in Mudeford, Stanpit and West Highcliffe, with a planned 1,430 homes. The majority of these will be at Roeshot Hill, where land has been earmarked for the development of 875 homes and for which outline planning consent has already been granted.

Christchurch Town will take 950 properties, with permission already given for 450 at sites including the former magistrates’ court.

“Around 505 homes are expected to come forward as windfall opportunities,” the document states. “Most likely as a result of rear infill development on larger plots and some intensification along public transport routes.”

In Highcliffe and Walkford, it is anticipated around 585 homes will be be built; for Commons the figure has been put at 270; and Burton and Grange will likely see the creation of 130.

Previous flooding at Christchurch Quay (picture: Graham Wiffen)
Previous flooding at Christchurch Quay (picture: Graham Wiffen)

“Given the historic pattern of development, the scope for regeneration in Christchurch town is more limited than Bournemouth or Poole town centres,” said the plan. “And future development will be based around promoting the town centre as a place to shop, participate in leisure activities, enjoy culture, and access key facilities and services.”

The Local Plan, once approved, will replace three largely outdated plans for each of the towns.

The six-week consultation launched this month, and subject to there being no major amendments, the document will be submitted to the Secretary of State for approval.

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