The proposed development of 1500 new homes at Stanmore will significantly increase the flood risk to Bridgnorth, says a leading local environmental expert.
Dr Andy Howard provides strategic and practical advice about climate and environmental change to a range of commercial, governmental and charitable organisations through his Stanmore-based company Landscape Research & Management. He believes the near record floods affecting Bridgnorth and the immediate Severn Valley in the last week are likely to get much worse, as increased levels of rapid run-off surface water from the development will end up in the Worfe and Severn.
Dr Howard explained, “The development at Stanmore will include significant areas of hard standing in the form of roads, pavements, drives and patios, plus a large area of industrial estate, and they are all impermeable surfaces that result in rapid run-off of surface water. Climate change is undoubtedly affecting both the frequency and intensity of storms, as demonstrated by the dramatic floods seen in Bridgnorth this week, but managing the landscape surrounding the river to minimize the volume of water entering it, both during and after any storm, is equally as important. Trees and soil soak up the rain, they are a vital part of the water cycle”.
Whilst all new developments have design features built into them to reduce the amount of immediate run-off, Shropshire Council have not produced any well-developed plans, mitigation measures, or an obligatory Strategic Environmental Assessment for Stanmore. Dr Howard said this omission was “very concerning” not least because a study commissioned by Shropshire Council for the Local Plan Review described proposed site at Stanmore as ‘flat and featureless’.
“Anyone driving past the site can see clearly see that isn’t the case. Hermitage Farm, from the Ridge to the Stanmore straight is a valley, it’s often waterlogged during a downpour, all that water has got to go somewhere. Has an environmental specialist even been here, and got a feel for the contours of the land?”
Despite calls for better flood protection for the town, Dr Howard said that all central government policies are moving away from large-scale defence schemes to individual property level protection of those houses directly and regularly affected by flooding.
“Sadly, if Bridgnorth residents are hoping for significant capital investment in flood defences for Bridgnorth, they will be disappointed. That’s why managing the scale of development around the town is a crucial part of the hydrological equation to cope with our changing climate. There may be suitable places to put large housing developments, but Stanmore is not one of them in my view.”
Notes: Shropshire Council’s Local Plan Review proposes 850 houses and 16ha of employment land in Phase 1 (up to 2036) and a minimum 650 homes and 48 hectares of employment land (safeguarded for after 2036). 565 houses have also been approved in Tasley. This will increase Bridgnorth by over 2,000 houses and an additional 64 hectares of employment land over the next 20+ years (i.e. by 40%). Surface water run-off from Hermitage Farm, Stanmore has already flooded properties in Quatford; water then drains down to the Severn.
Surface water from Stanmore Industrial Estate is already piped across country, under the fields at Swancote, and under the A454 – this drainage pipe is often overwhelmed or blocked and the road regularly floods at Roughton (water naturally drains to the Worfe from Stanmore, across and under the A454 via Hoccum and Swancote).