RESIDENTS who say their land is being flooded after unauthorised changes to a nearby housing development fear the scheme may be about to get the green light and leave them stuck with the problem.
The 45 affordable properties in Fawley Road, Hythe, were pulled off the market by Vivid Homes last year after New Forest District Council discovered the drainage had not been built to approved plans.
Since then buyers have been left in limbo and the two sides have wrangled over the uninhabited site, with neighbours complaining of rain water soaking downhill and causing damage to their properties.
The situation dates back four years to 2015 when an application was allowed for the mini-estate which included construction of a swale – a drainage channel.
Instead, the builders installed extra soakaways – covered holes filled with rubble to help water percolate into the earth – and neighbours have complained ever since.
To try solve the problem, a retrospective application was submitted in 2017 by Vivid Homes to dig new, amended soakaways which it hopes will also avoid further expensive works.
Neighbours do not trust the proposed fix, however, and are fearful that if that is officially signed off by NFDC they will be stuck with flooding on their land.
In a bid to gain control of the ongoing situation, this year NFDC paid for independent drainage consultants Such Salinger Peters to investigate the proposals.
In a briefing note to Hythe and Dibden Parish Council, senior planning officer Ian Rayner said their findings considered the updated drainage would be “acceptable” and limit water runoff to what would have been expected under the first version that included the swale.
But Mr Rayner added: “The concerns of local residents remain in terms of how surface water drainage is affecting Forest Lodge Farm, and careful consideration must still be given to these concerns.”
Parish councillors subsequently objected to the plan due to it containing “inaccurate” information and their strong doubts that it would resolve the problems.
The man living at Forest Lodge Farm is semi-retired farmer John Penny, who has occupied the property for more than 40 years and says there was never any problem until the new development was built.
He instructed his own consultants, Herrington Consulting Ltd, who concluded there was insufficient evidence for Vivid Homes to claim the new scheme would solve the problems.
Mr Penny, who said he is not against the principle of housing on the site, told the A&T: “This has gone on for four years and I have had to use my own funds to get this addressed.
“I am 66 years old and I have got better things to do with my life.”
A declaration by retired solicitor Katherine Penna listed water seeping into Mr Penny’s workshop and barn, and cracks in a stable making it unfit for use. Garden plants have drowned and a drainage gully flowing with unusual amounts of water, she added.
Vivid Homes’ director of new business and development, Mike Shepherd, said: “We’ve been in extensive discussions with the planning authority to put together a revised proposal for a new drainage system that we’re confident will rectify the current drainage issue.
“We’ve submitted our new plan to New Forest District Council and we’re waiting for the plan to be thoroughly reviewed by the planning committee in September.”
Mr Shepherd did not respond to a question of whether Vivid Homes was considering compensation for the residents affected.
One resident of Fawley Road criticised the handling of the development in an objection lodged with NFDC, describing it as “just one big joke in the area”.
No one from NFDC was available for comment.
As reported in the A&T, Cllr Edward Heron, NFDC’s Conservative cabinet member for planning and infrastructure, said in July he was “optimistic” of a resolution soon, after Liberal Democrat Cllr Mark Clark criticised the slow progress as “unacceptable”.
In January 2018 the site was hit by a major blaze which wrecked a three-storey block of eight flats under construction.
A decision by NFDC on the revised drainage scheme is scheduled by mid-September after the deadline for public comments on 30th August.