Work begins soon on Seacourt P&R extension, which we opposed fiercely.
Work begins soon on Seacourt P&R extension, which we opposed fiercely.
Members of OFA steering group, along with Councillor Colin Cook, and Stephanie Ouzman (a member of MP Layla Moran’s staff), met with Council officers and their consultants WYG on 27 April 2018 to try to obtain answers to a series of questions about the proposed Seacourt P&R extension. Subsequent to the meeting there was a further email exchange and answers were provided to a number of outstanding points by the Council. We appreciate having had this opportunity for dialogue about the issues, and now feel we understand what is being proposed.
It’s clear from the response from the Council that the planning documents did not provide a clear reference to the use of an impermeable membrane at the site. It wasn’t spelled out in the application, and the documents give no details of the tanking and how this would work. This has now been explained to us.
We believe we should have been able to get answers, as of right, on points of issue like this through the planning consultation. The fact that we couldn’t was a failure of the process, and below the standards we have observed in other applications locally. The County (LLFA), Environment Agency and planning officer didn’t, in our view, fully understand what WYG were proposing – this is clear from correspondence with them during and subsequent to the planning process. Councillors, therefore, approved a proposal which had information gaps in it on flood risk, and which they couldn’t have fully understood. In our view this happened because the planning outcome had already been pre-determined, and our queries were ignored because the process was designed to secure a particular outcome.
Now that we know what’s actually proposed, we don’t believe (as far as we can judge) that the development poses an immediate and direct flood risk to local properties, which is obviously a welcome outcome. But all development in Flood Zone 3B by its very nature creates a risk to the consistent and predictable functioning of floodplains. Hence planning policy, which incorporates learning outcomes from decades of previous developments in areas subject to flooding, prohibits such developments because the medium and long-term consequences can be unexpected and far-reaching.
We believe the development is inconsistent with planning guidelines – building in the floodplain and Green Belt – but recognise the planning officer advised otherwise, and that Councillors agreed with his interpretation. We regret that the Secretary of State did not choose to examine this issue, and believe the Council’s decision sets an unfortunate planning precedent. We also remain unconvinced of the need case.
The car park extension will be an additional source of pollution during a flood, and there is no way to stop this. This is undesirable, and a negative environmental impact. The Seacourt P&R extension is just to the north of OFAS which has an ‘environmental vision’ aiming to improve freshwater habitat – a vision the Council signed up to.
If the development goes ahead, we’ll be watching with interest to see how often if floods and how the local authority deals with this. At times of flooding the car park will be a potential source of risk to users and members of the public. We will also continue to be vigilant about further planning applications brought forward by the Council, as the process has left us feeling we can’t rely on the local planning authority, or members of Council planning committees, to safeguard the public interest. We hope public concerns will be better addressed should any similar situation arise in future.
Oxford City Council’s Planning Review Committee met last night to reconsider the application to extend Seacourt park and ride. This had previously been approved by West Area Planning Committee but a review had been requested by concerned councillors.
The review committee confirmed the previous decision.
There is a report in the Oxford Mail.
We believe this decision is a huge mistake and we are disturbed by aspects of the decision-making process.
There is no lack of parking spaces here, nor overall. Should it ever be needed, better usage of existing parking could easily be achieved by live signage on the ring road. We have collected online data and visited the site over the very busy pre and post Christmas periods – the existing car park has never once been full. Opening of the new Westgate has not caused problems and many people clearly choose to drive into the city rather then use park and ride.
The cost is huge, £4.1 million is already budgeted. And there are many other urgent calls on the public purse. People are homeless and sleeping on the streets just a mile away.
The site floods from groundwater – an aspect that has received scant attention, despite our highlighting it repeatedly. Because of groundwater flooding there will be a net loss of floodplain if this development goes ahead. The site will also flood when the rivers flood. This will make it expensive to pump out, maintain and repair.
The decision is undoubtedly contrary to national planning guidance (NPPF) which is there to protect the floodplain and Green Belt. A previous extremely similar application on the site was the subject of a Planning Enquiry in 1998 and refused by the Secretary of State in 1999. Since 2007 the guidance has been strengthened following the Pitt Report on the Oxford and nation-wide flooding in 2007.
It is possible that the present application will be Called-in by the present Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid: we have requested, jointly with Layla Moran MP, that this should happen. If the application is Called-in a Public Enquiry will follow. The reason for our request is that a decision to develop a car park in the floodplain sets a serious national precedent. Building in the floodplain is deplorable, except in the most exceptional cases – which this most certainly is not.
If the extension does eventually go ahead it is not impossible that the Council will in time come to regret it – as construction costs rise, maintenance is expensive due to recurrent flooding (exacerbated by climate change) and occupancy is low. But that will be no comfort – much better it should never happen in the first place.
We are very strongly opposed to the proposed extension by Oxford City Council of Seacourt Park and Ride on the Botley Road, which has been mentioned here before.
If you want to see our latest objections go to http://public.oxford.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=summary&keyVal=OFE2FHMFIAV00 where you can see not only ours but the serious objections from others too.
If that doesn’t take you there direct go via https://www.oxford.gov.uk/info/20066/planning_applications click ‘View and comment on planning applications’, twice, and then search for Seacourt or 16/02745/CT3.
This article in the Oxford Mail talks about the possibility of ‘smart signs’ – electronic boards – on the ring road, to alert drivers to where there are empty park and ride spaces around Oxford. This could obviate the (claimed) need to increase the number of spaces at Seacourt, instead pointing drivers to (say) nearby Redbridge. According to an earlier report in the Oxford Mail there is apparently so much spare capacity at Redbridge that the City Council proposes to remove 270 parking spaces, and is quoted in the newspaper as saying that the loss of these spaces would be ‘marginal’.
It seems to us to be inconsistent for the City Council to argue that removing 270 spaces at Redbridge is perfectly ok, while at the same time arguing a burning need to build new spaces at Seacourt – in the floodplain, on Green Belt land, contrary to local and national planning guidance and, as far as the present application goes, creating a potential risk to life (see towards the end of the first newspaper article and our previous post). Never mind the cost, which has already risen from about £2million to over £4 million.
Liz Sawyer, who recently joined the OFA Steering Group, addressed Oxford City’s Full Council on 6 February 2017, about the potential risk to life posed by the proposed extension to Seacourt P&R.
There is also, as the photograph above shows so vividly, the potential for damage to the car park itself – and of course to vehicles. The Automobile Association’s ‘Flood Facts’ quoted in Liz’s address set out the risks of floodwaters very clearly.
Liz’s address can be downloaded here (pdf).
The proposal is inconsistent with both national and local Green Belt policy:
Within Oxford City Council’s main strategic planning document, the Core Strategy, Core Strategy 2 (CS2, see above) states:
‘Greenfield land will not be allocated for development if any part of the development would be on Flood Zone 3b.’
Our comment: The proposed site for the new car park is greenfield, and in functional Flood Zone 3b.
CS2 also says that ‘development will only be permitted on greenfield land if it is specifically allocated for that use in the [Oxford City Council’s] Local Development Framework’.
Our comment: This site is not so allocated.
Core Strategy 11 (CS11) says:
‘Planning permission will not be granted for any development in the functional flood plain (Flood Zone 3b) except water-compatible uses and essential infrastructure.’
Our comment: The proposed site is neither ‘water-compatible’ (a category intended for developments such as marinas), nor ‘essential infrastructure’ (which includes projects such as water treatment works, or roads which have to pass through a floodplain).
In our view the position could not be clearer – this proposal is, in fact, precisely the kind of development that the Council’s own strategic planning policy is there to prevent.