Conditions? What conditions?

Wainhomes appear to have a blatant disregard for the conditions placed on them by Planning Inspector, Ken Barton, when he allowed the appeal for the 50 houses currently under construction.

Possibly the most serious of the conditions was that no houses should be occupied until adequate measures to cope with surface water were put in place (see https://susiebond.wordpress.com/2014/09/19/an-apology/).

As a result of their admission that they had not complied with this condition, EDDC’s Planning Enforcement Officer has written to Wainhomes and they have been given 14 days to respond.

This set me wondering about the other 11 conditions placed on development at Winchester Park. These conditions are not something the developer can decide to ignore. The conditions are placed on a development to make it acceptable in planning terms.

The site behind Louvigny Close was never considered the ideal place to build, given the inadequacy of the infrastructure in Feniton, given the frequency of flooding and given the woeful state of the foul water network.

Another very important condition, therefore, was that no houses should be occupied until improvements had been put in place to the foul water network. The condition reads: (12) No building hereby permitted shall be occupied until works to improve the foul sewerage network to enable it to cope with the flows from the proposed development have been completed.

Contaiminated water flowing from the drains on Ottery Road

Contaiminated water flowing from the drains on Ottery Road

The works to increase the capacity of the pumping station on Ottery Road are not yet complete, but not only have 6 houses been occupied … more apparently have been sold and are awaiting the arrival of their excited new owners, owners who will be unaware that they will be adding to Feniton’s sewerage and drainage problems.

I emailed South West Water (SWW) to ask if they had talked to Wainhomes, e.g. to let them off condition 12. The response from SWW left me reeling. Only a week ago the flood wardens were out in force in the village, the entire surface and foul water network was utterly overwhelmed and once again properties were flooded out with raw sewage. Does SWW care? Seemingly not. The response by Jay Harris — Waste Water Services: Operations Manager (East) – to my question about Wainhomes was:

The work to provide additional storage at Sidmouth Junction SPS is programmed for completion by mid January 2015. We have not been approached by Wainhomes regarding the occupation of properties but consider the connection of 6 dwellings, discharging foul flow only, will not have any effect on the sewerage network as the SPS improvements are well in hand.

So, we learned recently that Wainhomes cynically couldn’t be bothered to build the attenuation tanks to relieve flooding and which were a condition of people moving in. Now we learn that cynically they are adding to the flows in the village but SWW doesn’t care.

When is Enough, Enough? How many more of the 50 houses Wainhomes is building will be occupied until Mr Harris thinks he might have to sit up and take notice, I wonder? Sewage is already spewing from the drains into open ditches and along the road in the new village. It all makes it way down to the old village and onwards to the sewage works at Buckerell Cross. Along the way, the combined surface and foul water network is forced from the drain in a toxic plume, and from there it contaminates the Vine Water which runs alongside the road.

'Sewage plume' spewing from the drains on the road from old Feniton to Buckerell Cross

‘Sewage plume’ spewing from the drains on the road from old Feniton to Buckerell Cross

So, to recap, we are faced with a developer who thinks that planning conditions to safeguard local communities don’t apply to them, and a water company which would appear, to put it mildly, to be complacent about its legal responsibilities to its customers.

The task of checking that everything is in order on the site has been contracted by Wainhomes to NHBC Building Control. Concerned that Wainhomes has been ignoring its obligations in the pursuit of a quick buck, and that the attenuation tanks it is required to install have yet to be put in place, I had a lengthy conversation with them yesterday. NHBC Building Control could not even find a site for 50 homes in Feniton on their books!

The non-technical member of staff with whom I spoke has promised to get back to me. She was very surprised that any houses have been occupied before checks on them have been undertaken.

While NHBC may be guilty of no more than an administrative error, Wainhomes has claimed previously on my blog that it is a “responsible developer”. A responsible developer would not be ignoring the conditions imposed on it by the Planning Inspectorate and putting Feniton at risk as a result. A responsible developer would also be liaising with NHBC Building Control. Come to that, a responsible South West Water would not be letting Wainhomes get away with all this …

I will update my blog as I learn more, but in the meantime I am raising my concerns with MP Neil Parish.

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28 Responses to Conditions? What conditions?

  1. Gill Ewings says:

    Surely if these homes were bought with a mortgage they should not have released the money without a valid NHBC cetificate?

  2. Pamela Valentine says:

    Wainhomes should have a hefty fine placed on them and that money put aside to pay the excess insurance for those that flood from now until the flood relief pipes are in place and operational, they should not be able to get away with ignoring the conditions imposed by the inspector

  3. feuxdusoleil says:

    Re. Wainhomes and Feniton Sewerage

    Hi Susie

    It seems to me that you should alert the EDDC Enforcement Officer about the breach of conditions about the sewerage. They are the only authority, I believe, who have the legal right to stop the houses being occupied. SWW have a legal duty to provide adequate sewerage for all houses. They can insist, via the Planning Consultation, that conditions are imposed on any approval such that necessary enhancements to the sewerage system are completed before occupation. But the actual setting of conditions is down to the Planners and the DMC and enforcement is down to the EDDC as the Planning Authority. What you would do well to try for is that SWW ask for this enforcement. They are responsible for damage to homes due to flooding from inadequate sewerage, so they have every reason to insist on the enforcement. Otherwise they will just be paying out in compensation for sewage damage to homes (not the householders’ insurance companies). It may be worthwhile contacting the Consumer Council for Water to try to get SWW to support you in requiring an enforcement of the planning conditions. See their procedure at: http://www.ccwater.org.uk/adviceandcomplaints/ I have used them in the past and the local contact is very helpful.

    Kind regards

    Jo Frith Flat 4, 6 Fortfield Terrace, Sidmouth EX10 8NT 01395 513205 jo.frith@fortfield.eclipse.co.uk

  4. Peter Bending says:

    Lets be honest SWW have been at best wishy washy in there dealings with any developer in this village

  5. Chris Wakefield says:

    ‘Responsible Developer’ = contradiction in terms.

  6. Val Jones says:

    Time for a stop notice to be put on the site until Wainhomes comply with all the conditions. And time for us all to withhold our payments to SW Water until they look us first and consider the implications for all of us. We had sewage backing up last April – 3 times in 3 weeks – due to a collapsed pipe in the road outside. We dread heavy rain again. The whole system is out of date and SW Water need to do something about updating it before they connect up any more houses. Wainhomes will have to wait or install septic tanks or portaloos for their houses.

  7. Lynne Deam says:

    This is utterly ludicrous, if Wainhomes had conditions placed upon them then someone should have been checking as the build progressed to ensure this was being adhered to. It’s all a complete joke, they are completely arrogant and as long as they get their money do not give a damn about anyone. It also seems that SWW does not want any unnecessary aggravation, however you would think as the village is so high profile that they would take an added interest in getting this right!

  8. feuxdusoleil says:

    Here’s a thought
    Those of you who are suffering flooding and sewage issues as a result of EDDC NOT enforcing the conditions of Wainhomes’ planning permission might get together a solicitor’s letter threatening to sue EDDC for damage caused by their negligence in failing to enforce the planning conditions. That would probably get the EDDC Planning enforcement jumping about.

    • susiebond says:

      EDDC Planning Enforcement Department is on the case and has written to Wainhomes. We just keep fingers crossed the village doesn’t get another deluge like last week’s before the attenuation tanks are approved and installed.

      • feuxdusoleil says:

        Hi Susie
        One of the astonishing things I gleaned from the LGO advice link (in my subsequent post) is that for LPAs enforcement is a DISCRETIONARY power. It rather begs the question as to what is the point of Planning Conditions if the LPA has discretion about whether to insist on them or not. That is why I said that the District Council is the one liable for damage caused to neighbours by their choice not to actively and urgently enforce the Planning Conditions. Even if they do in the end enforce them, any damage caused after the EDDC has been asked to enforce should/could be the source of a claim for damages by Feniton residents against EDDC.

  9. feuxdusoleil says:

    Here’s another thought
    This is a guide from the Local Government Ombudsman about a Local Planning Authority’s duties in enforcing planning approvals and conditions. It is really worthwhile reading it and should be of help to those people suffering damage from flooding in deciding what is their most effective course of action.
    http://www.lgo.org.uk/publications/fact-sheets/complaints-about-planning-enforcement/

  10. Val Jones says:

    The problem is that the attenuation tanks won’t solve the flooding anyway. Water has always poured off that field just as it did the other day. Attenuation tanks may help but they will need regular maintenance and clearing out which will be Wainhomes responsibility. Given Wainhomes attitude to the residents of Feniton, and their determination not to comply with planning conditions and renege on as much as they possibly can, it’s unlikely they will maintain the attenuation tanks anyway.
    They seem hell bent on building more houses and on the part of the site where the attenuation tanks and allotments were going to be. No wonder they don’t want to put them in. Wainhomes were told at the appeal that Feniton had enough houses, that it could not sustain any more. they need to take that on board and stop treating us all like idiots.

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  13. Cate Edmonds says:

    This appalling and morally outrageous, how can Wainhomes flout regulations like this and get away with it!!! I feel like getting up some sort of protest, I am incensed about the lack of care for our environment and homes and feel very sorry for those who have occupied the houses already without proper guarantees of how their homes waste will be treated. What can we do!!

  14. Seaton says:

    Can you do a temporary injunction on further building?

    • susiebond says:

      It’s in the hands of planning enforcement officers who have written to Wainhomes and given them 14 days to respond. We have to assume that their response will be to install the tanks immediately in accordance with the flood risk assessment.

      Not for the first time, the village is holding its breath.

  15. Sandra Semple says:

    Or insist that the new homes have cess pits!

  16. Hi, I’m from South West Water and I wanted to say that we do take the flooding problems in Fention very seriously and sympathise with everyone affected. As you say, the matter of planning conditions is for the district council, but in reality it has little effect on the operation of our network. The problem with the network in that part of the village is surface water from existing roads, roofs and hardstandings overwhelming the pumping station. The new Wainhomes development does not contribute surface water to our sewerage network, and so is not contibuting to the sewer flooding problem in that part of Feniton. It has been built with a separated surface water system. Notwithstanding this, we do appreciate that we need an integrated solution to flooding in Feniton and we would like to work with the community and other agencies to put in place a sustainable long-term solution.

    • susiebond says:

      Thank you for commenting on my blog and putting SWW’s perspective.

      Condition 12 of the inspector’s decision specifically states that “No building hereby permitted shall be occupied until works to improve the foul sewerage network to enable it to cope with the flows from the proposed development have been completed.”

      It’s absolutely clear.

      Whether SWW considers that 6 houses’ worth of additional flow could be accommodated in the foul water network is a point I will address. However, the facts are that Wainhomes did not even contact SWW before allowing the new houses to be occupied and so had no idea whether the system could cope or not. They just went ahead and ignored condition 12.

      The surface water which currently (and historically) runs off the Wainhomes site overwhelms the combined sewer very quickly, leaving residents downstream to cope with the dreadful combination of storm water and sewage inside their houses. This is the same sewer which Wainhomes are discharging into. It cannot take the increased capacity.

      • Peter Bending says:

        If the surface water from the site does not go into the sewer system and there are no soakaways where does it go?

      • Lorna Devenish says:

        All new developments must have separated surface water and foul systems. On this development, the plan as I understand it is for the surface water to be directed into attenuation tanks and from there into a surface water sewer which will flow into the EDDC surface water ditch. I believe this ditch is being upgraded by EDDC although I don’t know the details. I’m in the process of getting confirmation of how far advanced the construction of the surface water system is and will come back with an update asap.

      • Lorna Devenish says:

        We have spoken to Wainhomes today and they have confirmed to us that the tanks are not in place yet. They are constructing the sewers on site at present.

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