'Flood prone' area in Kent 'pushed to limit' with 96 new homes

Drawing of the proposed development off Ashford Road
-Credit: (Image: STEN Architecture and Pentland Homes)

Fears are mounting over plans to build a huge new housing estate on a field near a 'flood prone' residential area in Kent. Plans for 96 new homes are to be sent back to the drawing board after claims infrastructure is already “pushed to the limit."

Pentland Homes has submitted a planning application for a mix of houses and flats on land near Ashford Road in New Romney. The proposal, submitted to Folkestone and Hythe District Council (FHDC) in October last year, attracted six letters of objection from neighbours.

And last week, locals and politicians insisted New Romney “cannot sustain new large developments” at the authority’s latest planning committee. It comes as more than 1,500 homes have been created in and around the town in the last 15 years.

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Juliet Wirt, who lives near the proposed development site, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) before the meeting that “sewage can’t cope now with the excess water” from new developments. "A lot of these developments don’t seem to enhance the structures around and put in any improvements to counteract for all the extra people that are going to be living there,” she added.

Direct neighbour Richard Crooks also opposed the plans. His garden is often left flooded. He said: “The infrastructure is totally inadequate. I’ve no objection overall to this sort of development in the field behind me but I have got certain objections with regard to the flooding that I experience in my garden.

“Down in this bottom area of my garden we regularly get two to three feet of water.” The bid ended up going before FHDC’s planning committee after a request from ward councillor David Wimble (Ind). Although not a member of the planning committee, he attended to “to passionately articulate why this development must be reconsidered and ultimately rejected”.

He said: “Until we have the necessary infrastructure in place, New Romney cannot sustain new large developments. The town council was informed in 2009 the New Romney sewage pump was operating at 120% capacity, since then we’ve had over 1,500 new homes being built in and around New Romney.

“Let me address the notion of NIMBYism – this is not merely people objecting to the development in their backyard, the concerns here are rooted in substantial factual evidence.” Lucy Wilford, speaking on behalf of Pentland Homes, told the planning committee: “This application seeks to make the most efficient use of this greenfield and sustainable site in New Romney.”

She stressed that “the density of the development remains low” and it “would not harm the visual amenity of the area”. But other members of the planning committee shared their concerns.

Cllr Paul Thomas (Ind), who also represents New Romney, reminded colleagues of bad flooding during a “once in 30 year” deluge of rain last November. He added: “We were distributing sandbags to houses along that particular hump on Ashford Road to prevent their properties from flooding.

“The whole issue of managing waste water in New Romney is at a critical stage. We are and have been suffering multiple storm overflows where raw sewage is discharged into the sea and that happens on a very regular basis.”

He then proposed the committee vote to refuse the application, despite planning officers recommending they approve it, adding: “The infrastructure is pushed to the limit and it has failed at critical times, which is not acceptable.” Originally outline permission was given for 87 homes on the plot, and Cllr Thomas described the increase as “trying to squeeze every pound out of this particular site”.

The development is proposed to consist of a mix of houses and flats, including five self-build plots, and blocks of apartments up to three storeys high. At the meeting Cllr Mike Blakemore (Green) said: “We hear a lot about efficient use of the site but I don’t think it’s an efficient use of the site if it is increasing the risk of surface flooding and it’s increasing the strain on infrastructure – that isn’t efficient in my mind.”

Cllr Nicola Keen (Lab), vice chair of the committee, added: “The area is overcrowded. When you drive there you sit in traffic with petrol pumping out into the atmosphere – that’s a seaside area and it stinks of petrol. We’re taking away everything from that area, they’re going to have flooding, it’s just overbearing and too much.”

Members were looking to vote to refuse the application on grounds of flooding and sewage issues, however, a planning officer told them: “It would be very very difficult to sustain an objection on those grounds, if not impossible.” Pointing out that Southern Water and the Environment agency had not objected, she argued the council would likely lose if Pentland Homes appealed against the decision, with the council likely to pay for costs.

As a result, councillors instead voted unanimously to defer the application to work with the developers to alter the designs, particularly around the blocks of flats. However, the site already has outline planning permission for 87 homes, so if the bid was rejected the developers could still come forward with a detailed application for 87.

The outline permission also includes the three-storey blocks.

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