Almost a hundred objectors packed a planning appeal hearing in Brighton this morning in a battle to stop a retirement home being built on a flooding hot spot.
A barrister for McCarthy and Stone, the retirement home business, urged a planning inspector to back its plans to demolish five houses and build 44 flats in Patcham village.
About 20 people, mostly people living in the flood-prone part of Patcham village, gave notice that they wanted to speak during the appeal.
Robert Walton, for McCarthy and Stone’s subsidiary business YourLife Management Services, told planning inspector Katie Child that Brighton and Hove City Council’s objections to the scheme were “misconceived”.
At one point neighbours groaned as Mr Walton described the site – in Old London Road – as a relatively ordinary suburban area.
He told the inspector, sitting in the packed council chamber at Brighton Town Hall, that the council objected to the plans because of the flood risk and the design. Other objections had been resolved.
Although Old London Road has flooded in the past, Mr Walton said: “There is no evidence that the existing buildings have flooded or that the appeal site is at high risk of groundwater flooding.
“The appellant has designed the building so that ground floor levels will be higher than the existing situation and above the level of all previous flood levels.”
He said that there was no policy requirement that a development should be risk-free – and in any case the plans included a surface water drainage scheme.
“There would be a detailed flood risk management plan,” Mr Walton said, adding: “The council has put forward a number of conditions to counter these concerns.”
He said that the council had never sought to undertake a balancing exercise of the benefits and the harms which was critical if it was to strike a proper balance.
“The council’s view is that the scheme causes some harm and therefore should be refused,” he said.
“The council’s residual objections (about the design of the proposed building) are misconceived and do not come close to justifying the refusal of planning permission.”
Hilary Woodward, the council’s senior planning solicitor, said that the council’s objections related to the design and the flood risk.
Mrs Woodward highlighted “the vulnerability of the future occupants of the development” in relation to the flood risk.
She said: “The council’s reasons for refusal on grounds of noise disturbance and lack of (financial) contributions have been overcome.”
A revised landscaping scheme had also been submitted by McCarthy and Stone, she said, which overcomes objections to the proposed loss of trees and level of replacement planting.
Mrs Woodward said that the scheme provided for assisted living or extra care and added: “There is an identified shortfall in extra care housing provision in the city and, indeed, one of the council’s visions is the provision of extra care housing to meet the needs of older and disabled people in the community.
“So it is not part of the council’s case at this inquiry that the city has no need for the type of accommodation being proposed by the appellant (McCarthy and Stone).
“The first reason for refusal is on the ground of flooding.
“Patcham has a significant history of flooding and this is likely to reoccur.
“This development is for older persons and the council does not agree that it is appropriate to add older vulnerable people to such an area – and we are told that the average age of residents on first occupation would be early eighties.
“The council does not believe that the appellant has adequately taken flood risk into account in submitting its application, neither that the mitigation measures proposed, including the drainage system, are appropriate.
“The applicant’s flood risk assessment does not show how flood risk to third parties would not be increased or show how flood risk would be reduced overall.
“The appeal scheme is unacceptable in terms of design … in terms of scale, density, massing, width. The roof is contrived and uncharacteristic of the locality.
“As such the appeal proposal detracts from the character and appearance of the street scene and the locality.
“Despite the acknowledge need for the type of accommodation proposed by the appeal scheme, Patcham is not the right location for such use and this is not an appropriate design.”
The scheme – in Old London Road in Patcham – involves knocking down five family homes and putting up a three-storey building containing 44 retirement flats.
The appeal is expected to continue tomorrow (Wednesday 14 June) and end on Thursday.