‘Soggy Bottom’ – Objection 1

This objection is one of three from Adel & Wharfedale Labour Party about various aspects of the Reserved Matters application (site reference 15/04884/RM) of 135 houses on land known as ‘Soggy Bottom’ located just off Moseley Wood Gardens in Cookridge.

The party reiterates its objections to applications 13/04148/OT for 200 houses which was rejected by the council and the revised application 14/04270 for circa 135 houses on this site which was approved subject to certain conditions [Reserved Matters] being met.

Among other things our objections in 2014 highlighted the following: (a) the inadequacy of the neighbouring streets as thoroughfares for access to the proposed estate; (b) the difficulty of reaching buses and trains on foot; and (c) other infra-structural problems such as the limited numbers of school places, distant GP and post office services, as are shops, pharmacies, leisure centres and library services all of which can only be reached by car by most residents.

Our original objections related to the boggy nature of the site and its susceptibility to flooding in particular, and how the site was not a suitable location for housing. The branch believes that these objections remain valid. Similar objections were made by large numbers of residents including Cookridge Residents Action Group (CRAG).

Also in our objection we stated,

“This area of land could be most usefully used as a soakaway helping to prevent flooding of the railway as it does up to a point now. In short the best thing to do with this site at this time is to leave it as it is which is very useful”.

This unintentionally prescient common sense use of ‘Soggy Bottom’ is, following the recent floods, a strategy which now merits being moved significantly up the planning agenda. Undoubtedly the present plans if finally approved will lead to more water from this area being directed more rapidly into the river Aire than now. This development together with others along the Aire valley, can only exacerbate flooding in Kirkstall for instance, when instead the site could play its part in alleviating it.

The December 2014 decision of the Leeds City Council Plans Panel was to approve outline planning permission to build about 135 houses on the site provided that thirty nine conditions (Reserved Matters) were met by the developer. Ten of these conditions related to the groundwater issue.

The most important of these was Condition 22 which states,

“The development shall not commence until a ground water drainage scheme has been approved in writing by LCC and used to inform the layout of Reserved Matters. The scheme is to be supported by a report that identifies the source and extent of ground water flows within the site. The report shall be based on a scheme of investigation, which shall first have been submitted to and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority containing details of:-

* Ground investigation works to identify the source(s) of groundwater, and

* Ground water level monitoring covering a period of 6 months.

Reason: To ensure adequate background information is available to assist in delivering sustainable drainage and flood prevention.”

No such scheme of investigation appears to have been made available by the developer. Certainly no such scheme appears on the Leeds City Council website for public scrutiny.

An examination of the 329 page document ‘Groundwater Investigation Report’ by Haigh Huddlestone – Civil Engineering Consultants for Taylor Wimpey which was placed on the city council website in November 2015, and which is a rehash of the 2014 document accompanying application 14/04270, appears to suggest that the two short paragraphs 4.1 and 4.2 on pages 4 and 5 are regarded by the developer as a Scheme of Investigation required by Condition 22. 

These two paragraphs do offer a very sketchy outline of what had already been done but could hardly be described as a scheme of further investigations aimed at satisfying the conditions set out by the council.

Among other things a scheme of investigation would have stated what was being investigated, how it was going to be investigated and why.

Specifically any scheme of investigation into the ground water on this site would have had the aim of ascertaining the source(s) of water on the site as required by Condition 22 of Reserved Matters.

Did the water which made the site boggy emanate from the bedrock, or perhaps water was draining from the nearby housing estates? Or was it from a 381mm drain which empties on to the site or was there some other unidentified source of the large amounts of water on this site throughout the year?

The consultants’ desk top and historical studies confirmed that this area’s bedrock was a secondary aquifer – an underground and faulted layer of water-bearing permeable rock from which water could be extracted. It was also known that nineteenth century flax mills in the area drew water from wells in the bedrock which strongly suggests that the bedrock which underlies the whole area all the way up to the top of Cookridge at the water tower and tele-communications mast is an important source of water on the site.

It is therefore astonishing that no investigation into the flow of water from the bedrock was ever attempted. Nor was a hydrogeologist – an expert in the study of water flow in aquifers – ever consulted by either the city’s planners or the developer. The only body that did consult a hydrogeologist was CRAG!

Similarly, the water flow from the 381mm drain (sewer) which empties on to the site was never investigated. According to residents living nearby there is very little discharge of water from this drain (sewer) on to the site at any time. Investigating the volume of water from this water source would have been easy. It was never even attempted.

The statement in paragraph 5.9 in the Haigh Huddlestone consultant civil engineers 329 page report implying that the “uncontrolled surface water discharge” from the Moseley Wood estate may be a significant contributor to the wet conditions on the site was yet another investigation which was never carried out and another opportunity of fulfilling Condition 22 was missed.

Following a storm in the summer of 1982 a large volume of water flooded on to the site via Moseley Wood Rise from the surrounding streets. This was a rare event – which may become more frequent – but this water source cannot explain ‘Soggy Bottom’s’ wetness throughout the year and every year!

Water discharge from the housing estates to the east of the site usually soaks into the ground within 30 metres of entry on to the site at Moseley Wood Rise. Again, there was no attempt to investigate the flow of water from this possible source that could be identified in the documentation.

The consultant civil engineers state in their findings, “…we cannot definitively establish the source of water recharge on this site…” and, “…nor determine the precise volumes, or rates of discharge, of ground water that emanates from these areas”. 

But this is precisely what the developers were requested to do before development could proceed and which the developers now say they haven’t been able to do! The point is that they could have satisfied Condition 22 by more thoroughly investigating what they were asked to investigate but they chose not to.

So condition 22 has not been met and in our view there never a serious attempt to do so!

In the view of the Adel & Wharfedale Labour Party, the developer’s cavalier approach to Condition 22 in the Reserved Matters is as unacceptable as it is lamentable.

This application should be refused.

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