Housing need outweighs loss of employment land in high risk flood zone

Residential development at a brownfield site within a settlement in Denbighshire was approved in outline despite the site being at a high risk of flooding and on designated employment land.

The inspector focussed on the two issues of flooding and loss of employment land at this 2.4 hectare brownfield site in a coastal zone. Fundamentally, the local authority could only show a 2.02 years supply of housing land and this affected the planning balance significantly. In addition, the inspector noted that assessments showed the imminent cessation in delivery of new housing within the next year plus the council had no other alternative sites to put forward.

In this regard, the consideration of the flooding issue revolved around the necessity of the development in relation to requirements set out in national guidance, namely to assist with meeting the development strategy of providing housing on previously developed land within settlements. Natural Resources Wales had not objected to the proposal subject to mitigation regarding finished floor levels. The council had been concerned about access and egress in times of flood for evacuation purposes as the proposal would result in inundation levels above that set out in the guidance. However, the inspector held the exceedance was only marginal and the fact that the speed of inundation was four times slower than that stated in the guidance was of greater relevance. 

In terms of loss of employment land, the inspector held the proposal also met criteria set out in national guidance for Wales as there were poor prospects for its re-occupation, it would not compromise neighbouring employment sites and ultimately the housing need situation should have priority over the loss of employment land.

A partial award of costs was approved against the council as the inspector felt they had failed to provide substantive written evidence for their reason for refusal on loss of employment grounds.

Inspector: Declan Beggan; Inquiry

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