COUNCILLORS are being advised to approve changes to a drainage system at an affordable housing development which neighbours blame for flooding their properties.
When New Forest District Council’s planning committee meets on Wednesday, members will be recommended to give the green light to Vivid Homes’ retrospective scheme for its 45-unit estate in Fawley Road, Hythe.
As reported in the A&T, the near-four-year wrangle means the properties have lain empty after being taken off the market while the row was resolved. A half-built block of flats there also burned down in January 2018.
Neighbours say the drainage – which was installed differently from plans approved in 2015 – has diverted water over their land, with semi-retired farmer John Penny (66) pointing to incoming water and cracks in one of his buildings at Forest Lodge Farm.
But planning officers are recommending councillors allow the revised plan, submitted in 2017, after bringing in consultant Such Salinger Peters which backed the digging of new soakaways, designed to release water into the ground.
A committee report said: “While concerns about the development’s impact have been raised by local residents, this must be balanced against the professional expert advice from the Lead Local Flood Authority and a firm of independent consultants (SSP), both of whom have advised that the proposed drainage scheme is an acceptable one that should not increase flood risk elsewhere.
“In these circumstances, and given the scheme’s significant benefits in providing much-needed additional affordable housing, it is considered the balance weighs very much in favour of granting planning permission.”
The main difference is that the swale to contain run-off water, which was included in the 2015 plan, has been replaced by extra, deeper soakaways.
The report added: “Clearly, the situation of a largely completed development without valid planning permission is far from ideal.
“However, in considering this application and the implemented works, officers have been mindful of the need to deliver homes to meet housing need within the district, particularly the high level of need for affordable homes, but in a way that does not have an adverse impact on the environment.”
The positive recommendation goes against opposition from Hythe and Dibden Parish Council, which questioned the findings by NFDC’s consultants, and eight letters of objection.
Mr Penny instructed his own consultant, Herrington Consulting Ltd, which concluded there was insufficient evidence for Vivid Homes to claim the new scheme would solve the problems, and might make it worse than before the housing was built.
There was no flooding objection from Hampshire County Council, although it said it could not comment on groundwater issues without further seasonal monitoring.
The application is going to NFDC’s planning committee due to being referred by Cllr Kate Crisell and the parish council’s differing opinion.
It provoked questions from Liberal Democrat Cllr Mark Clark at a full council meeting in July, who criticised the slow progress as “unacceptable”.
The application will be decided by the planning committee which meets from 9am on Wednesday at NFDC’s Appletree Court offices in Lyndhurst.