‘Menston Homes, Plan Does Not Hold Water’

Issue-Menston, flooding

Flooding Bingley Road, 2012

Excellent article on the flooding issue in Menson, from the Telegraph & Argus’, Jim Greenhalf today.

When villagers talk about raising £100,000 to take their local authority to the High Court over a planning decision, evidently something is not right.

Members of Menston Parish Council, Menston Community Association and Menston Action Group have joined forces to oppose Shipley Area Planning Panel’s approval for 300 new houses on greenfield sites on Derry Hill and Bingley Road in the village.

At a packed public meeting in the village on Tuesday evening, there was unanimous approval for going ahead to try to get a judicial review on the matter, having already asked the Government, in the shape of Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, to take the matter out of the hands of Bradford Council.

On December 15 last year, at Council offices in Jacob’s Well, there was a three-hour meeting between Menston representatives and Council officers. In the subsequent minutes of the meeting, a planning officer agrees that “it was necessary for Bradford Metropolitan District Councill to get back to Eastwood (consultants who had carried out a flood risk assessment) about the groundwater flood risks in respect of both sites.”

The minute proves there were detailed discussions about the probability of groundwater saturation in Menston. Groundwater comes from aquifiers or subterranean chambers in rocks. When they fill up, water flows out of the ground.

Businessman and scientist Professor David Rhodes, a member of the Menston Action Group, who designed his own five-bedroom house in Menston, has taken a close interest in the issue since publication of the Council’s Local Development Framework, identifying the two sites as places for new housing.

He says: “There are a significant number of sites marked for housing in the LDF that are at risk from groundwater flooding. The Council says there is no issue with groundwater flooding in Menston, but that’s rubbish “Geologically, the ground under Menston contains aquifers which fill up after heavy rain. There was extensive flooding from water coming out of the ground in Menston in 2001 and 2007/2008.

“This also happened on January 5 this year. The A65 road was blocked for many hours. They had to bring in tankers to get rid of the water. The gas supply was off for three days in the main part of the village due to the infiltration of groundwater.

“The two sites are unbuildable on; in our view the groundwater flooding is contrary to sustainability codes. The Council knows this but ignores it.”

Councillor Val Slater, the portfolio holder for housing and planning on the Council’s executive committee, said that as portfolio holder she could not get involved in particular planning applications. However, she adds: “I am confident that the planning panel made their decisions on the basis of all evidence presented to them.”

Furthermore, she said she was happy for the people in Menston to put their case to the Secretary of State Eric Pickles. “Anybody is at liberty to refer decisions to the Secretary of State for consideration and I am happy for them to do that. It is good for democracy and good governance,” she adds.

Although local people are supposed to have a greater say in planning decisions, Prof Rhodes believes the Government’s Localism Bill has been watered down.

In spite of the December 15 meeting at Jacob’s Well, on February 28 this year the Council’s planners backed the developers and approved the Derry Hill and Bingley Road housing proposals.

“The officers totally ignored the issue of groundwater saturation and flooding,” Prof Rhodes says.

That’s why Menston residents may go for a judicial review. That’s why they have asked Eric Pickles to dip his toes in the water. But will he?

It seems unlikely, given that the Government, in accordance with European Union’s Framework Water Directive, has passed on responsibility for flood and water management to local authorities.

Next year, Bradford Council, acting on behalf of the whole of the UK, is holding a conference in the city on the subject of flooding in the 27 member states of the European Union.

The conference featured in an article in the March 2011 edition of the Council’s Community Newspaper. The article was illustrated by a photograph of a bus caught in a flooded road – in Menston.”