Posted: Wed 5th Jul 2023

Flooding advice overruled as seven new houses given go-ahead in Monmouth /
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, Jul 5th, 2023

Councillors have approved plans for seven new homes near a Waitrose supermarket – despite being advised to reject them due to the risk of flooding. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Monmouthshire council’s planning department described the application to demolish the 159-year-old Hebron Hall chapel and its adjacent community hall in Monmouth and replace it with two semi-detached homes and a row of five ‘mews houses’ as an application it “broadly supported”. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

But, though the town centre location is protected by Monmouth’s flood defences, environment body Natural Resources Wales said the risk of a one-in-100-years flood event, made worse by climate change, couldn’t be overcome, and as a result planners had to recommend refusal for “highly vulnerable” developments such as housing. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Planning officer Amy Longford told the committee: “This is a high quality, much-needed regeneration of a brownfield site and addresses issues of anti-social behaviour. The sole reason for the recommendation for refusal is the advice of Natural Resources Wales.” ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

She also said applicant Justin Bailey had already signed a section 106 legal agreement with the council ensuring that two, two-bedroom homes would be affordable and they will be let by a social housing provider. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Ms Longford said the chapel isn’t listed but is considered to make a “positive contribution” to the conservation area – but said structural issues with the building, built in 1864, have been identified. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

In response to the flooding risk all the properties have been designed with garage and storage space at the ground floor, with living space on the first floor which would be 2.4 metres above the ground. There would be a risk of flooding of living accommodation in an “infrequent” one in 1,000 year flood. Residents would also have to sign up to Natural Resources Wales’ early flood warning alert system. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Monmouth town ward councillor Catherine Fookes asked the committee to go against the officers’ recommendation and described the plans as a “good application” which she would “speak in favour of”.
The Labour member said Natural Resources Wales’ objection would mean “almost no development would be able to take place in Monmouth” and rejection would leave the town with “another white, or in this case, grey elephant on our high street”. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

She said as well as addressing concerns about anti-social behaviour around the site, which has been empty since the chapel, which later became a Pentecostal Church, closed around the year 2000, the developers would create a walkway from Chippenham Fields through the site, that faces the Waitrose car park, “boosting footfall” on Monnow Street. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Agent Martin Hall, speaking for the developer, said the risk of a one-in-100-years flood, aggravated by climate change, would see “500 hectares of Monmouth under water”. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Conservative councillor for Mitchell Troy and Trellech Jayne McKenna said many people she had attended comprehensive school in Monmouth with had been forced to move away from the town, and county, as they could not afford housing.
She said: “In my 43 years of knowing this site I’ve never known it to flood,” and added: “I do feel this is a good, well thought-out and much-needed scheme in Monmouth.” ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Dewstow Labour councillor Tony Easson said: “The last time Monmouth flooded, I think, was 1948.”
He said seven properties wouldn’t make a significant difference “if the whole of Monmouth was flooded”. However his Labour colleague, Bulwark and Thornwell member, Sue Riley asked if the worst case flood did occur would people have to be rescued from the homes. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Head of planning Craig O’Connor said Cllr Riley had “pointed out the potential risk and why the policy is there to ensure people aren’t put in that situation”, but said it was for the committee to balance the risks and benefits of the application.
The committee refused to move the recommendation for refusal and instead put forward the application be approved with 13 councillors voting in favour and one abstention. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Natural Resources Wales will now be advised of the decision and it could ask the Welsh Government to call it in and decide if the scheme should go ahead. Suggested planning conditions will be considered by Monmouthshire council’s delegated panel.
Cllr Fookes wasn’t able to vote on the application as she isn’t a member of the planning committee. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

By BBC LDRS ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

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