Thursday, 17 July 2008

Letter to Councillors on the Planning Committee

Dear Councillor

I am writing to every member of the OCC Planning Committee to register my strong objection to the application to dig gravel at Stonehenge Farm. The principal reason for this objection is the clear risk of flooding that will result from the works.

Unlike the EA, I live in Northmoor right in the thick of the floodplain, and my objection is based on personal observation of real water flows over many years and not on the inadequate modelling of theoretical water flows performed in support of the application.

A key source of flooding in Northmoor is the Windrush, which joins the Thames at Newbridge. The Windrush floods easily and copiously as a result of the previous gravel diggings higher up the Windrush, which removed the usual buffering from vegetation and the sponge effect of the land now occupied by lakes. Flooding typically occurs when the Thames is high because a huge backlog of water builds up at the junction of the two rivers, bursting the banks of the Windrush and overflowing into the fields. This excess water then drains down to the Thames lower down via the various brooks and ditches across the fields. Importantly, all this floodwater is deposited the ‘wrong’ side of the flood bank, which was designed and built before the worst of the gravel diggings expressly to protect Northmoor from water coming up from the Thames not down from the Windrush.

Stonehenge Farm currently accommodates an important part of the Windrush overspill. In my opinion it would be irresponsible to interfere with our fragile hydrology by the excavation of huge open-caste mines, development of clay-lined lakes, and building of massive earth walls or bunds at Stonehenge Farm. I am astounded that the hydrology model does not show the flooding risk more clearly from this development and can only conclude that it is a poor model that does not correspond with the real-life experience of those who live here.

The proposed gravel digging will increase the risk of flooding on our farmland, it will increase the amount of flooding in Moreton Lane and it will increase the amount of flooding in the village of Northmoor. We have no need of models to show this, we observed the process in action last year on the ground.

At a time when the EA has cut back savagely on waterway maintenance, especially of the Thames and its ‘main river’ tributaries, we already suffer from poor local drainage, as evidenced by the pools of water which appear in the fields after just a couple of days of rain. Right now we are another flood waiting to happen. Approval of the application will just bring the threat of flooding that much closer to us.

Let those who would take the responsibility for approving the application also take responsibility for the economic and personal consequences of the flood that will follow.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Please do think long and hard about this decision and take account of the real concerns of so many residents. For your information, I have sought Counsel’s opinion from Harry Wolton, one of this country’s most senior Planning QCs and he is ready and eager to take on the fight should that become necessary.

Sent in by Graham from Northmoor

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