Ben Loryman: Will the Western Growth Corridor go down the plug hole?

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Unfortunately, many people who buy a house are unaware of potential flood risks. When the heavens open, rivers burst their banks, and the waters are flowing through their homes, this is a personal catastrophe.

On the August 9 this year, many households in Immingham were submerged below two inches of water after heavy rains overwhelmed drains and gullies – one local resident commented that they had had no contact from their local council.

This is unacceptable; councils have a duty to respond in emergencies and a responsibility to take measures to ensure that these events don’t happen again in the future.

City of Lincoln Council first proposed developing the Western Growth Corridor (WGC) in 2006.

Employees at the Witham Internal Drainage Board refer to the area of the proposed WGC as ‘the plug hole of Lincoln’.

Many of the houses in the original plan were intended for areas that are a functional flood plain.

Building anything other than waterproof buildings and essential infrastructure in these areas is obviously a mistake. The plans contain ponds intended to store floodwater, but these won’t prevent flooding if the Fossdyke and the Witham burst their banks.

The original plans went on hold, and Taylor Wimpey withdrew from the project in January 2016. The WGC was revived as part of the Central Lincolnshire Plan later that year.

We objected to building in areas at risk of flooding at the consultation events, but the plan was subsequently adopted.

However, the new proposals are not proposing to build on the functional flood plain, which is a relief.

Nevertheless, the area intended for houses is classified as ‘flood risk zone 3a’. This means that the risk of flooding is at least 1% per year. The Environment Agency advises against the construction of vulnerable buildings, like houses, in these areas.

This should only be contemplated if there are no alternative sites available. The Central Lincolnshire Plan identifies several other areas inside the Lincoln Eastern Bypass, and brownfield sites around the city, which are far less likely to flood and we suggest these should be developed in preference.

If there is no practical alternative, there must be detailed flood risk assessment showing that the proposals are safe. This document should be available for scrutiny in the public domain.

I have emailed the City of Lincoln Council but they have declined to provide it, so far.

I will see Karen Lee MP on the August 30, and attend the WCG consultation meeting about the flooding and environmental issues on September 6.

We would like them to provide this document, together with any ecological assessments, and advice from the Environment Agency and the Witham Internal Drainage Board, prior to this meeting.

The proposals include plans to raise the houses on the WGC by one metre above the existing ground level. Paul Cobbing, the CEO of Flood Forum, says this can be effective – however, he poses the following questions:

  • Does the modelling show that one metre is enough to protect the houses?
  • Will the roads be raised by one metre, or will the area become an island when it floods?
  • If so, will the floodwater be obstructed from reaching the functional flood plain? Where will the water go then? It is important not to create a problem we cannot fix afterwards.
  • Will the drainage and sewerage systems be able to withstand exceptional (not just average) flows?

Every passing year seems to be the hottest on record, showing that climate change is well underway. Most extra heat goes into the seas, driving violent storms and torrential rains that are overwhelming flood defences worldwide.

In light of this, we would like to ask City of Lincoln Council to convince us all, in the public domain, that they are doing the right thing?