An unfathomable decision by the Environment Agency is bringing a tidal wave of new housing on a floodplain in Wokingham, Berkshire a step closer to reality.

That’s unless a local residents’ association can stop it.

The EA claims to protect communities from the risk of flooding. Yet earlier this year it astounded residents of the Winnersh, Lower Earley and Woodley areas of Wokingham by passing a flood risk assessment for a proposed development of 400-600 new homes.

It has since agreed that the flood model meets its standards for river modelling. The next step is for the developer to send in amendments to its original 2006 planning application to Wokingham Council in four to six weeks.

The site at Hatch Farm Dairies includes an access road that directly crosses a floodplain. The area is well-known for floods caused by the River Loddon and Emm Brook.

“The site and surrounding areas are prone to flooding, which the condition of local sewers, both in terms of foul and surface water, compounds,” said Phial Mehring of the Loddon Valley Residents Association (LVRA). “We want the council to stop this proposed development.”

Not only do floods regularly make the roads impassable around the Loddon roundabout but the rivers and blocked culverts also flooded 85-95 houses in Wokingham in 2007.

Last year the council got tougher on flood prevention after being forced to pay £500,000 to motorists when flooding damaged 100 vehicles. The Environment Agency’s Flood Watch wasn’t high enough to call for the closure of the Loddon Bridge Park and Ride where the cars were parked.

You can bet that today the car park closes every time there’s a Flood Watch issued. Money talks.

On 28 January members of the LVRA will be questioning the council’s Executive Committee about the proposal.

“The site was designated as being suitable before flooding became a major issue but the important change in circumstances should nullify this, enabling the council to protect constituents from the horror of flooding,” said Phiala.

Although the association is hopeful that a deluge of protest will stop the development, experience of similar residents-versus-government showdowns suggest it’ll be an uphill battle.

Still, isn’t the top of a hill the best place to be when it floods?


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