NEW rules intended to prevent future flooding could place a block on developments in most Welsh towns, a councillor has claimed.
The rules, set to come into force in June this year, will require that potential future flooding, and not just historic information, is considered when developments are proposed.
But Councillor Sara Burch, who has responsibility for housing in Monmouthshire, says councils fear the impact of the strict new rules.
She was speaking at a meeting where Monmouthshire’s Labour cabinet was asked to explain the closure of a day centre for adults with learning disabilities in Abergavenny and to redevelop the building and site for affordable housing. When the decision, which has sparked a public backlash, was made in November the council acknowledged it needed to bring the plans forward before the planning rules change in June.
Cllr Burch said the rules, known as TAN 15, mean Tudor Street, where the Tudor Day Centre is located, would be considered at risk of flooding.
The Welsh Local Government Association is lobbying the Welsh Government on the new policy but Cllr Burch said unless ministers in Cardiff Bay change their minds it would be unlikely the centre could be redeveloped.
She said: “The Welsh Government has brought forward a revised, detailed flood risk map which takes into account, not only floods within living memory or within historical record, but also an assessment of the theoretical future risk.
“Part of the Tudor Street site falls within that new boundary. Actually large parts of most Welsh towns fall within that boundary and the WLGA (Welsh Local Government Association) has asked the Welsh Government for more flexibility when considering applications in built-up areas on already developed sites, basically the continuing ability for councils to make a case-by-case assessment of risk and mitigation.”
But she defended the proposal to use the site for housing, as she said she didn’t believe it is at risk of flooding. A planning application before June could still be considered by the council’s planning committee in line with the rules as they are now.
She said: “If you know Abergavenny you would realise Tudor Street has never flooded and is not at a significant flood risk and that any risks there, we believe, could be mitigated, so I do not believe that to convert the building, and develop it for flats as proposed, would be putting people at risk of flooding.”
During the council scrutiny committee meeting Cllr Burch said up to 18 homes could be accommodated on the site.
Councillors had questioned why the council hadn’t given an indication of how many homes could be provided. Cllr Burch said it is thought conversion of the existing building and a new development alongside it could provide “18 affordable units”.
If a plan for housing is delayed until after the new rules are in place Cllr Burch said that could reduce the number of homes as the plans would have to be ammended. She said: “If the Welsh Government don’t listen to representations from the WLGA we could find ourselves with a site that can’t be developed for housing, or could only be developed by demolishing the building and building on the rear part of the site.”
At the meeting Conservative councillor Jayne McKenna questioned why the Tudor Centre site is needed when the council’s proposed development plan includes 500 new homes, over the next 10 years, on a potential site in Abergavenny, with a commitment to secure affordable and social housing.
But Cllr Burch said the council needs “as many sites for affordable homes as we can get” including those that can become available “relatively quickly” due to the numbers currently housed in “unsuitable” bed and breakfast accommodation.
The scrutiny committee has referred the decision to close the Tudor Centre to the full council which will meet on January 19 and it can either accept the decision or ask that the cabinet reconsider it and take on board comments from councillors.