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Sidford Business Park: flooding issues

  • by JW

“Flooding is now more extensive and will be worse still by 2025.” [Halcrow Group report]


Today’s Herald reports that the A375 near Sidford has been closed both ways due to flooding. Yesterday’s Devon Life carried a photo of the flooding at the Two Bridges Road on the perimeter of Sidford, stating that the main road into Sidmouth has been swamped by floods.

This flooding seems to echo the news of flooding issues at the same spot, back in the autumn of 2016.

Here’s a rather overcast November 2022 photo from Google Maps of the Two Bridges Road:

These weather reports also echo concerns expressed at the time of the planning application for an industrial estate on the perimeter of Sidford back in the summer of 2016…

The bigger picture has been that, despite climate change, we insist on building on flood plains – including in the West Country. At the beginning of the year, the Environment Agency warned more flooding in the South West was likely ‘due to climate change’. And the Telegraph, asking in the spring what was causing flash flooding in Devon, reported that extreme rainfall events are expected to become more common as the climate warms.

The specific objections to the Sidford plans again and again referred to the flood risk.

The Sid Vale Association (SVA) objections to the Sidford Business Park Planning Application, as part of the Save Our Sidmouth campaign at the time, highlighted the issue:

We have already objected to the development on the grounds that it contravenes LP policy EN21 by reason of its failure to mitigate the flooding risks…I quote

a. The Application contravenes Devon Local Plan Policy EN21 (River & Coastal Flooding). Mitigation measures as proposed by the applicant are inadequate as they fail to take account of the substantial increase in flood risk caused by climate change contained in the latest Environment Agency guidance.

b. In particular, the Applicants’ Flood Report data are out of date as they predate the new Environment Agency (EA) report on Adapting to Climate Change: Advice for Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Authorities, which was issued on 13th April 2016.

[Although the Environment Agency appeared to contradict its own guidance on flooding and climate change.]

District Ward member Cllr Marianne Rixson objected to Planning Application Development at Sidford. 16/0669/MOUT:

It is totally inconsistent that EDDC should seek to extend the boundary at Sidford, not only into the AONB but also into land which has been classified by The Environment Agency as Flood Zone 3b, the worst possible category of floodplain, for industrial development.

This site was previously rejected for development by EDDC on 23rd October 1978 (ref LP7/328/357/GCG) because it is in an AONB, is subject to flooding, is situated over an aquifer where pollution could contaminate the water supply, and the roads are too narrow

Flooding is now more extensive and, according to the Halcrow Group report (2008), will be worse still by 2025 to the extent that even Flood Zone 2 will become Flood Zone 3a. Surface water flows down the hills, across the proposed access road and across the field like a river.

County Ward member Cllr Claire Wright also objected on grounds of flooding:

The Environment Agency advises that new more stringent guidelines as set out in climate change documentation should be used as a material planning consideration for this application. Given that the fields are close to a major watercourse and the area is prone to regular flooding, I very much hope that EDDC will use these guidelines to assess the application.

Devon County Council flood and coastal risk officer has also recommended refusal on the grounds of insufficient information relating to water run-off. The application should be refused on these grounds. It is clear that the evidential comments from residents and key consultees can only leave EDDC with no option but to refuse the application.

Earlier, District Councillors Stuart Hughes and Graham Troman also “made a last-ditch effort to see controversial proposals for 12-acres of employment land between Sidford and Sidbury scrapped”

“We have always said between Sidford and Sidbury isn’t the place that you would look to put a business park. It is an area that is renowned for traffic, there are concerns over flooding and it would completely destroy the beautiful view.”

And finally, the Town Council planning committee unanimously rejected the planning application on several grounds, including that “it would exacerbate flooding in an already regularly flooded area”.

The application was rejected – but in 2019 the planning appeal upheld the plans:

In his report, he concludes that the proposed development would help meet the significant employment needs of the area, the drainage and flood attenuation measures would reduce the risk of surface water flooding elsewhere