COUNCILLORS have given the go-ahead for 12 new units at an industrial estate despite being recommended to reject the application due to the risk of flooding.
It is the second month in a row members of Monmouthshire County Council’s planning committee have approved an application they have been advised to refuse on flooding grounds after giving the green light to new housing in Monmouth at their July meeting.
That application, and the plans for new units at the Severn Bridge Industrial Estate in Caldicot, were put before the committee at the request of the council’s head of planning, Craig O’Connor.
He told the August meeting the land at the industrial estate has been allocated for new industrial and business development in the council’s approved local development plan, and is the last such undeveloped plot in the area, but Natural Resources Wales had objected to the new units.
As a result planners were unable to recommend approval with the environment body insisting potential flooding on the site is beyond “tolerable depths” identified in the Welsh Government’s technical advice notice, TAN 15. Flooding maps show it at risk from the Nedern brook, and coastal flooding with the estate close to the Severn.
The committee was told applicants FI Real Estates had shown through a flood consequence assessment there would be no off site impacts from any flood prevention measures but its consultant engineer, Neville Shore, said Natural Resources Wales was maintaining its objection.
He said the agency’s record shows there is no history of flooding at the estate and said: “The site will remain dry in all but the most extreme conditions and would be one of the last areas to flood in the wider area.”
He also said tenants would need to sign up for Natural Resources Wales’ early warning alert which would give 48 hours notice of any flooding.
Emily Armstrong, development manager for the landlords, said all 36 units at the estate are currently occupied and the expansion would increase space available by 32,00 square foot which she said would be six months supply due to demand.
The units would create more than 100 jobs, said Mrs Armstrong, while the company would also look to work with local firms on construction which could support a further 60 jobs.
Chepstow Labour councillor Dale Rooke, who moved the committee should approve the application, said: “If the site ever flooded the entire Severn Bridge Industrial Estate and pretty much half of Caldicot would be under water.”
He said the only objection was based on an “extreme weather event we haven’t seen yet”.
Abergavenny Conservative Maureen Powell said: “I think we have to be brave and go ahead, there’s desperate need for employment for people.”
She then made reference to the high flood – or storm surge of the Severn – that left large parts of South Wales including inland Cardiff, underwater in January, 1607 and is sometimes referred to as a tsunami.
She said: “It would be a shame for people not to get their jobs, I just hope we don’t have this storm again, was it 1610?”
Planning committee chair, Caerwent, Conservative Phil Murphy, said he believed the ‘great flood’ was in 1604.
Caldicot Labour councillor Jill Bond questioned why the committee was being asked to make a decision and said she had missed the previous meeting, that agreed to approve plans for housing at the former Hebron Chapel in Monmouth despite the risk of a rare flood, as she had attended a climate change leadership seminar.
She said people aren’t aware of the risk from land use and that she didn’t feel “equipped to make a decision” with Natural Resources Wales having objected. She also suggested there should be “better” maintenance schedules for a local culvert.
Chepstow Labour member Sue Riley also noted the committee was again in the position where it was being urged to approve an application Natural Resources Wales had objected to and suggested postponing a decision so it could have more information from the body.
Dewstow Labour councillor Tony Easson said, though the estate isn’t in his ward, he lives close by and the areas last flooded in 2015 and was blamed on a failure to operate a sluice gate, and supported the application.
He suggested a condition to maintain the area around the estate, including the Nedern brook and that during a site visit councillors had seen fly tipping, including of tyres, along its banks and warned: “If that isn’t tidied up it will cause flooding.”
Planning chief Mr O’Connor said control of culverts isn’t within the council’s powers, and falls to Natural Resources Wales, while it was said it was unlikely the body would consider a request to attend and explain its advice.
Chair Cllr Murphy said he understood the Natural Resources Wales was “happy” with the committee’s decision related to the Monmouth chapel site and wouldn’t be requesting the Welsh Government “call it in” for possible reconsideration.
The new units were approved and the council’s delegated panel will consider potential conditions.