HEAVY rain has renewed fears over the safety of one of Northwich’s most controversial planned housing developments.

Major developer Bellway is set to build 227 new homes on the banks of the River Dane in Leftwich after purchasing land off London Road from Ainscough Strategic Land.

But the area has a history of flooding, and last week’s downpours served as a reminder of how vulnerable the Dane Valley can be – and how climate change could put the area at even greater risk in the years to come.

Cllr Andrew Cooper, Labour Cheshire West and Chester Council member for Leftwich, monitored the Dane’s rising levels last week and saw its banks become waterlogged by Thursday night.

He said: “If anybody has any doubts about the effects of climate change they should be set aside if you look at the extreme weather we have had over the last couple of years.

Northwich Guardian:

“This summer we have had the highest temperature ever recorded in Britain, followed by the extreme weather we have had in the last couple of weeks in Cheshire.

“Anybody looking to build houses on the Dane Valley needs to think carefully about what the effects of climate change might be on that floodplain and whether it is worth the risk.”

Cllr Cooper found that the River Dane rose from a level of 0.17m to more than 3m last Monday and then almost 4m last Thursday – placing the area at risk of flooding on both occasions.

He also noted a ‘rather fine waterfall’ had formed by Thursday night, as water ran off the field into the Dane close to where the proposed access road for the housing development will be.

Guardian reader Bev Caldwell-Hoe lives opposite Dane Valley, and raised concerns about possible flooding and the future housing development.

Northwich Guardian:

An image taken by Bev last Thursday morning showing standing water on the floodplain

She said: “I have lived here for six years and I have seen it flooded a couple of times. This was quite heavy – it was obviously from the heavy rainfall that we had for a couple of days before.”

Ainscough secured outline planning permission for the site in 2014 after Cheshire West and Chester Council’s planning committee narrowly approved the scheme, as the council did not at the time have a five-year housing land supply required by Government.

But residents battled against the plans at the time over fears the site could be flooded – and aired the same concerns last year when CWAC rejected the design of the new homes, only for the Government to overrule it at appeal in March.

The council now has a five-year supply, an approved local plan and the Northwich transport strategy – which are all in place to prevent unsustainable plans coming to fruition.

Cllr Cooper added: “I was at the committee in 2014 as an observer and I was not surprised by the decision – CWAC had no choice but to approve it really.

Northwich Guardian:

Cllr Cooper monitored the river level of the Dane last week

“That’s not the fault of the council or that committee – if it had not approved it the decision would have been overturned at appeal because of the position the council was in.

“I’m certain that if they brought that scheme forward today the council would reject it – but we are where we are.”

Bellway, which has named the development ‘Rose Meadow’, says it has carefully considered the possibility of flooding on the site.

A Bellway spokesman said: “Over 100 acres of Rose Meadow will remain riverside meadows. The housing will be built on an elevated platform above the floodplain.

“Bellway’s specialist consultant undertook an extensive hydraulic modelling study of the River Dane to model the effects of flooding. This modelling was incorporated within the flood risk assessment submitted in support of our planning application.

“The Environment Agency requires that the finished floor level of each house is set allowing for climate change and the incidence of a ‘once in a hundred years flood’, plus 600mm.

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“Bellway will raise floor levels a further 400mm above this requirement. This was incorporated into the planning conditions discharged in April 2019.

“Bellway intend to commence work at the site entrance on London Road in approximately four weeks and we are hoping to open for sale in spring 2020 and we are confident that demand will be high.”