Letter to the Cockermouth Post Strawberry Grange Phase Two: a phase too far?

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It was heartening to read the response to my earlier correspondence, from Carson Straughton, in your December/January issue, regarding the potential for problems ahead in respect of the development of Strawberry How. He clearly speaks with authority and experience and is unafraid of sticking his head above the parapet.

I wrote as one of a group of residents who have been fighting this battle now for two years. We may not have stopped the build, but we’ve certainly stirred a few consciences and regularly put our thoughts on record, hoping beyond hope that we never have to say: “We told you so.”

Readers may be interested in an update on our efforts to speak to government and halt the progression of ‘Strawberry Grange’ in to its second phase. Perhaps not surprisingly, the responses to all three of our briefing notes to the various secretaries of State for Communities and Local Government over the last two years have frequently seemed almost wilfully misunderstood and universally elicited the same response: “Not our problem, speak to your local council and/or the Environment Agency.”

The most recent – passed like the proverbial hot potato to Jake Berry MP, Minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth – was particularly enlightening, viewed through the prism of what the law expects and that which we perceive has been delivered.


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Mr. Berry points out that the National Planning Policy Framework makes it clear that ‘inappropriate development in areas at risk of flooding should be avoided’ and development of brownfield sites should take precedence. If needs must, building ‘should not increase flood risk elsewhere’. He does not define ‘need’.

Naively perhaps, he says that planning applications be determined in accordance with the Local Plan – which, in turn, should ‘be informed by a strategic flood risk assessment, taking account of flood risk advice from the Environment Agency’.

He points out that flood mitigation and resilience measures can help prevent or limit damage through improved drainage and new flood management infrastructure – which ‘can be made a requirement of planning consent’.

Finally, he points out that ‘local councils are expected to follow the strict tests in the National Planning Framework to protect people and property from flooding and where these tests are not met, new development should not be allowed’.

The reality in Cockermouth?

• A 320-home development built around a Level 2 Flood Zone, ‘flood mitigation measures’ which now actively direct the flow of excess surface water away from the designated SUDS (Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems) and directly into Tom Rudd Beck – a serious reframing of the Condition of planning consent requiring surface water to go via a series of SUDS, BEFORE entering the beck, thereby cleansing and slowing its flow.

• A clearly documented increase in the volume of water both flooding the site and adjacent pathways and entering the beck.

• An ignoring of at least two local brownfield sites in favour of what was once agricultural land.

• A complete disregard for the Local Plan (adopted in July 2014, five months before planning consent) which stated that 10% of the overall housing growth for Allerdale should be to Cockermouth amounting to ‘30 homes per year’. Including Strawberry How, by February 2016, the Council had granted permission to 622 new homes within two months – all in Cockermouth – despite their own housing needs analysis stating that there is ‘sufficient available and agreed development to fulfil the town’s housing needs for the next ten years’.

• A flood risk assessment and strategy written by the developer’s own team and based on no data whatsoever, the EA having later confirmed that data for Tom Rudd Beck and its impact on the River Cocker did not exist.

We expect Story Homes to seek full planning permission for Phase 2 this year. Despite the greater knowledge of flooding on the site, its impact downstream in Cockermouth town centre and a recently-produced management plan for Tom Rudd Beck, on past performance we question whether Allerdale BC will indeed follow the strict tests of the National Planning Policy Framework.

As Sajid Javid has said: “Everyone deserves a safe place to live.” The residents of Cockermouth fear the next serious flood and know that the development at Strawberry How can only aggravate this problem and worsen the risk of flooding to their homes and businesses.

We intend to continue our ‘conversation’, such as it is, with Government and Allerdale BC, if for no other reason than to establish an audit trail. As we mentioned at the start, in the sincere hope that we never have to say: “We told you so.”

Judy Whiteside, Christopher Orr, Hilary Tattershall, Christopher Cookson, Tim Stanley-Clamp, Lena Stanley-Clamp, Beryl Pryde, Robin Hayward, Robert Bratton, Helen Farris and Dr. Stephen Farris.

ISSUE 423 | 22 FEBRUARY 2018 | 5

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