This is the second of three objections which the Adel & Wharfedale Branch Labour Party is submitting to the Reserved Matters application 15/04884/RM by Taylor Wimpey for their proposed housing development off Moseley Wood Gardens in Cookridge.

Reserved Matters are the conditions which in December 2014 the council decided to require the developer to fulfil before development could proceed on ‘Soggy Bottom’. Many of the conditions, and Planning Condition 22 in particular, relate to the boggy nature of the site.

In this objection the local Labour Party argues that since none of the specified conditions – Reserved Matters – set by the council have been met, Planning Condition 22 has not been fulfilled.

Planning Condition 22 bears some scrutiny.

22) 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 (sic) 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.

At first sight these conditions raised the hopes of residents because the council appeared to accept that the boggy nature of the site was fully recognised and that a thorough investigation of the site was about to be carried out. Many believed that any investigation would reveal that this site was not suitable for housing development.

There were some concerns, however, about the wording of Planning Condition 22 which, to say the least, was very awkwardly expressed.

The local Labour Party has attempted to disentangle the different aspects of Planning Condition 22 as set out in Reserved Matters and then have assessed each aspect of Planning Condition 22 in turn to decide whether it had been met by the developer.

A ground water drainage scheme had to be approved in writing by the Leeds City Council.

No document has been published which indicates that a scheme of drainage has been sent to the LCC or received their approval. If such a drainage scheme was sent to the LCC when was it sent and when was it approved and what did it contain?

It might be argued that the Groundwater Report (13/5788/LDR001) now fulfils this aspect of Planning Condition 22. This document, however, contains no reference to a scheme to drain the site which had been submitted to and approved by the Leeds City Council in writing.

In the absence of any such documentation one is left to conclude that there never was a drainage scheme put in place either before or after the council’s decision in December 2014.

It follows that this aspect of Planning Condition 22 has not been met.

The scheme had to be supported by a report which identified the sources of, and extent of, water flows on the site.

Leeds City Council, through the Planning Panel in Reserved Matters, stated that the drainage scheme had to be based upon an assessment of how much water had to be drained away. In short, they wanted information about where all the water was coming from and how much water had to be drained from the site so that they could be assured that the proposed drainage was able to successfully drain the site.

A report was produced. It was Haigh Huddlestone’s Groundwater Investigation Report (13/5788/LDR001) of September 2015. What this report makes abundantly clear is that the source or sources of the water had not been identified and neither the extent of, nor volumes of water involved, had been ascertained either.
[Note: Haigh Huddlestone are Taylor Wimpey’s civil engineering company consultants for this development]

That any drainage scheme had to be supported by a report identifying the sources and extent of water on the site is surely a standard piece of information which any prudent decision maker would require before proceeding. The Leeds City Council Plans Panel quite properly sought this information as indicated in Planning Condition 22. The developer’s September report clearly admits that the source(s) and the extent of water on the site were not known and, although not stated, there were no plans to investigate further.

It is worth noting that September 2015 is about two years after Taylor Wimpey had first mooted the ‘Soggy Bottom’ development and the source of water is still not known.

Whatever the proposed drainage scheme which appeared in the September report is based upon, it is definitely not based upon any verifiable data about the sources and extent of the water on ‘Soggy Bottom’.

How can a drainage scheme be designed to drain an unknown amount of water coming from unknown sources at unknown locations at unknown rates of flow? Common sense says it can’t. Yet that is precisely what the developers propose.

Yet again the Plans Panel instructions have been set aside.

The report shall be based upon a scheme of investigation which shall first have been submitted to and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority.

No scheme of investigating the origins and volumes of ground water was submitted in writing to the Local Planning Authority (Leeds City Council) before or even after the December 2014 Plans Panel decision.

There is no evidence to show that any scheme of investigation was approved in writing by Leeds City Council planners either.

There is no public record of any such scheme of investigation. This strongly suggests that there never was a scheme to investigate the water in ‘Soggy Bottom’.

On this count yet again it appears that conditions set by the Planning Panel were not taken seriously. It is clear that this aspect of Planning Panel Condition 22 has not been met.

It is fair to say that no part of Planning Condition 22 had been fulfilled.

The report did, however, set out in some detail drawings of the drainage system now being proposed. These new proposals were much more substantial than originally planned and include underground drainage tanks, French drains and swales. This system might work! But since neither the sources of the water nor its extent is known we cannot know whether it will or it won’t. There is not a scrap of data to demonstrate that the drainage proposals can cope with the water on the site. On the other hand there is no evidence to show that it won’t.

Then in November 2015 an internal exchange of memoranda between planning officers was published on the council’s website. This contained the following:

“Thank you for consulting Flood Risk Management (FRM) on the revised Geotechnical Report submitted by Haigh Huddleston (Doc. Ref: E13/5788/LDR001) in September 2015, submitted in support of the above planning application.”   And,

“FRM are satisfied that the above document provides this information. We have also consulted colleagues in the Geotechnical Section and they have stated that: this report, along with the proposed drainage system, addresses the requirements of Planning Condition 22”.

We accept that the proposed drainage is significantly more substantial and robust than that originally planned, but there is no way of knowing whether it is adequate or not, or even correctly positioned when the sources and volumes of ground water are not known even approximately.

The drainage system proposed appears to target a worst case scenario. It is highly engineered in the sense that a great deal of work will have to be done digging trenches and so on and a lot of materials such as pipes and stones will be used in building the drains. But it is certainly not based upon any evidence because there isn’t any.

Verifiable data is available for neither the source(s) of the water nor the amounts of water on the site. It follows that any proposals for drainage can only be based upon hunches or guess work or perhaps a ‘cover-all-eventualities’ estimate. 

The Flood Risk Management team in the same internal memorandum state,

“It is our view that these [Drainage Proposals] will ensure that the proposed development will not be at significant risk of flooding, and that the proposed development will not increase flood risk elsewhere. It therefore meets the requirements of the National Planning Policy Framework”.

That the drainage proposed might prevent flooding on the site is correct but it might not. No-one can be very confident in this drainage proposal because it is devoid of any supporting data.

But at the same time the exchange goes on, “the proposed development will not increase flood risk elsewhere. It therefore meets the requirements of the National Planning Policy Framework”. To assert that it will not increase the flood risk elsewhere is not supported by any evidence. It is an assertion and nothing more.

For all these reasons Reserved Matters application 15/04884/RM should be rejected.

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2 thoughts on “‘Soggy Bottom’ – Objection 2

  1. 1. Six weeks this post has been here and no responses from members. Why then is it proposed to help out tax-dodger facebook with a discussion site? Who’s going to take any notice?
    2. Is this really a suitable topic for a labour website. Looks pretty much like all the other nimby stuff you get in posh parts of Leeds to me. Whole cities have been built on swamps (heard of Washington?) so the problem’s easily coped with. There’s a housing crisis. Am I the only oldie with children and grandchildren having to rent from buy-to-let swine?
    3.We certainly need a members’ policy-talk site. We have a govt that is corrupt and callous on an epic scale but where are the attacks on this easy target? Tiger Corbyn has turned out to be a pussycat in my opinion, and the rest of our MPs face the tories with their knees behind their ears.

    1. Where do I start to deal with Michael’s blunderbuss discharge of issues?

      I rejected the simple strategy of starting at the beginning and then going on to the end. There were so many issues raised that to deal with all of them would be a lengthy business and some of the points raised were more important than others.

      Since Michael was responding to the branch objection to the proposed building on ‘Soggy Bottom’ I will confine myself to replying to comments on housing and some of its ramifications, and then briefly with one other matter.

      Michael appears to make two points. Firstly, anyone opposed to building houses on ‘Soggy Bottom’ or any other ‘posh’ area was a Nimby. Secondly he appears to suggest that since there is a housing crisis we should simply accept whatever is thrown at us and be grateful for small mercies.

      Taking the second point first, we agree – there is a housing crisis. But the Tory National Planning Policy Framework 2012 legislation and the house building proposals flowing from it were never intended to resolve that developing crisis. It was at least in part pay-back time for big building companies for their generous donations to the Tory Party in the run up to the 2010 election.

      It is becoming clear that if things remain as they are, then large numbers of people will never own their own home, and hundreds of thousands of young people in particular will continue paying exorbitant rents for a roof over their heads. It is increasingly commonplace for people in their twenties and thirties to rely on parents and grandparents for help with their housing.

      In this ward the prices of new houses completed last year in Adel started at about £500,000! I might be tempted to say, ‘That says it all’, but it doesn’t. The devil, as they say is in the detail, and so is the politics.

      That is why a study of the housing issue reaps dividends. In my opinion what all local community groups including parish councils, the local Labour Party and others have unearthed points to a dysfunctional and hollowed out planning system.

      It is a planning system heavily weighted in favour of developers. The system will have to be changed and changed sooner rather than later. The present legislation ensures that builders win most of the time and councils and communities lose most of the time.

      It is telling that none of the applications to build houses in this ward made any assessment of, or reference to, the housing needs of the people of Leeds or of Cookridge, Pool, Adel or Bramhope. Building companies do not give a jot about your children or grandchildren or anyone else’s. They are there to make money and that is all.

      The 2012 legislation trashed regulations which had previously prevented building on many green field and green belt sites and reduced almost to zero the ability of local councils and communities to stop unwanted developments. Less well known is that it also ended the build on brown field sites first system!

      That is why the local Labour Party and others have spent so much time and effort on this issue.

      Michael says Washington was built in a swamp so our flooding problems can easily be solved. I’ll let some-one else answer that bit of piffle.

      The many who have worked hard, raised funds, researched aspects of planning law, insurance, building regulations, then tramped through wet and muddy fields taking all kinds of readings in all weathers were ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

      They deserve our respect. They have mine.

      Geoff

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