Thursday, 15 April 2021

Flooding ‘proves case against new housing’

Flooding ‘proves case against new housing’

FLOODING on the site of a proposed housing development in Shiplake is further proof that the scheme should be scrapped, say opponents.

Rainwater pooled up beside the entrance to the former Thames Farm, off the A4155 Reading Road, when last week’s heavy showers brought the worst floods to the Henley area since 2014.

Taylor Wimpey is set to build 95 homes on the
5.7-hectare site, which will be renamed Regency Place, after planning permission was awarded on appeal in 2018.

But opponents say the flooding wasn’t a one-off and, in fact, will happen more often in future because climate change will bring more downpours.

To make things worse, they say drainage on the land will be poorer because the ground is prone to developing sinkholes.

Taylor Wimpey plans to inject it with impermeable grout to stop it collapsing.

The developer was also proposing to divert run-off water along a new pipeline going under Lower Shiplake and out into Lash Brook, at the southern outskirts off Mill Lane, but is now reconsidering this following protests by villagers.

Residents said the drainage scheme would just shift the problem elsewhere as the brook, a backwater of the River Thames, is already flood-prone. The neighbouring houses had to be evacuated seven years ago. 

The flooding wasn’t as bad last week but gardens and fields were submerged and residents had to wear wellingtons to leave home.

The problem was discussed at a meeting of Henley Town Council’s neighbourhood plan committee, which is currently revising the town’s joint housing plan with Harpsden.

The current version, which  passed a referendum in 2016, did not earmark Thames Farm, which is in Harpsden parish, for development.

Patrick Fleming told the meeting that two streams run from west to east across Thames Farm and are dry most of the time but swell during heavy rain.

One flows down the slope from Woodlands Road and across the centre while the other trickles down the northern edge beside the former Wyevale garden centre, which has planning permission for 40 new homes and some offices.

They then merge to form a “pond” running along the main road.

The Environment Agency says the streams only pose a “low” flood risk but Mr Fleming, who is also a member of the Greener Henley environmental group, said this assessment was based on old data.

He said: “There will be a huge problem if they ever try to develop that corner of the site and it’s going to get worse with time. One thing we do know about climate change is that we’re going to get more rain and, like it or not, more flooding.

“Taylor Wimpey are right to reconsider the drainage proposal. It’s going to become prohibitively expensive to pump out the water all the time and that’s forgetting the damage they will be doing to the village of Shiplake.”

Joan Clark responded: “Clearly they didn’t do their due diligence before they went ahead. It’s an untenable situation and nobody seems to have considered the geology.”

After the meeting, Mr Fleming added: “We’re seeing seasonal streams flowing more frequently, including the Assendon spring along Fair Mile in Henley and the Hambleden brook.

“It’s obvious to me that, with climate change, increased rainfall in winter will bring more water down the slope towards Thames Farm.

“Anyone looking to develop a site should be aware of that as I was able to find the Environment Agency data in seconds.

“Their proposed solution of pumping and drainage isn’t environmentally friendly and people living near Lash Brook will be upset that they’re worsening a problem in another part of Shiplake.

“It’s going to be a horrible mess — they simply shouldn’t be building on it.”

Peter Boros, who lives oppsite Thames Farm and is leading the campaign against Taylor Wimpey’s drainage proposal,  said: “I’m very aware of the flooding because in previous years it has risen into our garden and come within an inch of getting into the house through the garage.

“It is no surprise to us that it has been noticed and discussed by the neighbourhood plan committee.”

Taylor Wimpey says it understands the concern which its drainage strategy has caused.

It is now considering alternatives and conducting more flood risk research at the request of South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority.

A spokeswoman said: “We will continue to work closely with consultants to investigate the most appropriate solutions and will provide all Shiplake residents with an update in the coming months.” 

• What do you think? Write to: Letters, Henley Standard, Caxton House, 1 Station Road, Henley or email letters

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