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GBC ‘Planning Breach’ Causes Flooding Ordeal for Ash Vale Residents

Published on: 27 Mar, 2024
Updated on: 28 Mar, 2024

Field area flooded with Gareth Archard’s house in the background

By David Reading

A group of Ash Vale residents whose gardens suffer from flooding after heavy rain are involved in a longstanding battle with Guildford Borough Council.

There have been three floods in the gardens at Wellington Place in four years, caused by water running out of storm pipes installed at a nearby GBC development, Sopwith Close.

The residents’ spokesperson, Gareth Archard, said the installation of these storm pipes when Sopwith Close was built in 2015 went against the terms of the approved planning permission.

In a statement this week, the council acknowledged that elements of the drainage system for Sopwith Close were “installed incorrectly”.

A statement said: “We are now working towards developing a design solution so we can submit a planning application that will align the scheme with the original planning consent.”

But Mr Archard says he is baffled by the length of time this issue has remained unresolved.

Nine years after construction, the Sopwith Close development is still in breach of GBC’s own planning permission, there have been three floods and the increased flood risk remains.

Floodwater coming out of the field area and flooding the front of Mr Achard’s house, drive and a neighbour’s garden.

Apart from waterlogged gardens, flooding has caused blockage of toilets, sinks, shower, and baths for up to 18 hours.

Mr Archard has described a story of frustration in which, he claims, he has:

  • Attended bi-monthly meetings with GBC with no tangible result.
  • Made several Freedom of Information requests which appear to show there was no audit trail on why the flood prevention scheme was changed from the original plan.
  • Made a formal complaint focusing on the flood risk, which was rejected.
  • Made a formal appeal but waited two years for a reply.
  • Received no decision so far on whether GBC will meet the wishes of residents and install temporary mounds to protect parts of Wellington Place from flooding.

Mr Archard, who is retired and lives alone, said the flooding – and the risk of further flooding – has caused him to suffer extreme anxiety requiring counselling and medication. And he says he has spent around £27,000 to keep the floodwater at bay and prevent it from getting into his and his neighbours’ houses. The latest flooding incident was in January this year.

Mr Archard said that under the original plan for Sopwith Close, the floodwater was intended to be contained in a network of surface swale channels that would hold the water during flooding and channel it back to the river when the flood river level dropped.

It was after the Sopwith development was completed in March 2015 that Mr Archard noticed the  storm pipes in the field next to his property. His technical background alarmed him to the risk they posed. He  made complaints to GBC but says he was told there was no flood risk from them.

Mr Archard said: “The flooding prevention scheme at Sopwith Close is completely different to what was approved, resulting in a substantially increased flooding risk of both the sites. Parts of Sopwith Close get flooded after almost every storm, and Wellington Place suffered three floods in four years, well above the forecast for the area.”

Mr Archard said the flood water was predominantly river flood water containing sewage from the River Blackwater over 500 metres away. He understands the water runs under Sopwith Close and is channelled by the storm pipes to the low field next to his property.

Gareth Archard by the storm pipes installed when Sopwith Close was built. Water runs out of these pipes into the field next to his property, causing flooded gardens after heavy rain.

Unconvinced by reassurances from GBC, he put up a concrete panelled base to his fence line, a permeable brick drive and special Acer drainage, all at considerable cost. After the first flood in February 2020 he purchased floodgates for each of his door exits for the sum of £7,000.

Mr Archard complained formally to GBC planning in February 2020, saying that the Sopwith Close development did not meet the design that was approved in the planning application in April 2013. The complaint was rejected by late February 2020 based on little technical justification, he said, so he appealed, but did not get a reply to his appeal for 25 months.

In August that year, while Mr Archard was ill with anxiety symptoms, two fellow residents organised a petition to support their case. This gathered 48 signatures from the 44 houses on estate.

He said it was in the same year that the then chief engineer of GBC raised the possibility of installing mounds to protect properties – a solution the residents are in favour of. Mr Archard said this has been discussed in almost all meetings in the last two years, but there had been no progress.

“I have exhausted myself trying to get GBC to address the issues,” Mr Archard said. “For two years now we have had bimonthly meetings that appear no more than ‘kicking the can down the road’ – with no  solutions.

“I have made several FOI requests for information and decision documents to understand the reason why the flood prevention scheme was changed from that approved and why a drainage system not used in developments close to rivers was used. But there appears to be no audit trail on the decision.

“I cannot understand how a public body has no information and documents on the decision, and who took the decision.”

Questioning why the council appears to be slow to act, he believes the main fear among some at GBC is potential damage to the council’s reputation.

“It’s difficult to understand GBC approach to the situation,” he said.  “It appears more about ‘face saving’ than a true desire to correct errors of the past.”

Asked by The Guildford Dragon NEWS for a comment, the council acknowledged an error was made with regard to the Sopwith close development, saying: “Elements of the Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS) drainage for the Sopwith Close development were installed incorrectly. This is something that we have acknowledged and are seeking to rectify.

“We appointed an independent civil and structural engineering consultancy to undertake an initial piece of work. They have completed a review of the drainage design for the site and the actual as-built solution. We are now working towards developing a design solution so we can submit a planning application that will align the scheme with the original planning consent.

“Before we carry out any work, such as a temporary bund or a new sandbag wall, we will need the approval of the Environment Agency and Surrey County Council. Any solution would need to demonstrate that the flooding issue will not be pushed elsewhere.”

The council says it is planning a drop-in session in April for residents to outline what work is ongoing. “We will let residents know as soon as the date for this is agreed,” the statement said.




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Responses to GBC ‘Planning Breach’ Causes Flooding Ordeal for Ash Vale Residents

  1. J Holt Reply

    March 27, 2024 at 1:45 pm

    Is it the GBC officers’ and staff’s intentions that all complaints are delayed hoping the complainants will die first?

  2. Chelsea Mallyon Reply

    March 28, 2024 at 9:34 am

    I am a resident of sopwith close

    Car park floods are really bad out side my house and in the gardens. Lots of residents have lost stuff. My washing machine broke and toilets have been blocked so many times due to this.

  3. Charlotte Rodgers Reply

    March 28, 2024 at 9:57 am

    This is such an important and real life issue for local residents where the council action is beyond slow! Given the history, this will happen again and again until some remedial work is completed.

    As a local resident, we are aware of straightforward and cost effective solutions that can be implemented before this happens again – saving the council money in the long term for sure.

    My home wasn’t flooded on this occasion but we were unable to use baths/showers/toilets for days on end last time so it makes us fearful of what could happen next time.

    I would welcome an update from our local councillors on progress rather than only silence.

  4. Gareth Archard Reply

    March 28, 2024 at 10:21 am

    I write this comment after just receiving yet another flood Alert from the Environmental Agency. Each one sends a shiver through me.

  5. Chelsea Mallyon Reply

    March 28, 2024 at 11:01 am

    The flooding is already occuring again in the car park today and it’s only just started raining.

  6. Vanessa Brockwell Reply

    March 29, 2024 at 7:01 am

    The flooding is becoming too regular now. This is a street full of young families who, when flooding occurs, are unable to use the toilets, showers or baths for long periods of time.

    Our house hasn’t flooded but the water in the toilets and shower rise and become unusable. It is totally unacceptable when there are solutions.

    Guildford Borough Council have a lot to answer to!

  7. Julian Dicker Reply

    March 29, 2024 at 9:34 am

    I’m pleased the council have acknowledged the error, however I lack faith in the council to rectify in a timely manner since there has been such slow progress to date. I would like GBC to agree a date to have the situation rectified in its entirety, as proof of their commitment, rather than stalling though each stage of the process.

    The flooding in the estate happens all too frequently and a real issue to the residents.

  8. Gurbani Rullay Reply

    March 29, 2024 at 9:43 am

    This flooding was an awful thing to experiencing with young kids. We were unable to use our toilets or showers. The sewage was flooding out of my downstairs bathroom which was awful.

    I was here to experience the floods that happened in 2020 but it’s a shame that it has happened again and it’s been four years between both floods – still the local councillors couldn’t sort it out.

    But when it comes to votes they make all these promises.

  9. Jamie Lunn Reply

    March 29, 2024 at 9:49 am

    The flooding is absolutely causing disruption to lives and a financial cost to the tenants. Due to the floods I lost invaluable personal items from my military career that was part of history, my children will never see there items, no amount of compensation would replace this.

    It essential for these problems to be fixed. There is river contamination all over our gardens, it’s a major health and safety issue.

    Ignoring the problem isn’t an option.

  10. Gina Redpath Reply

    March 30, 2024 at 9:33 pm

    It is surreal – awful for residents and the officers at GBC are obviously under a lot of pressure but why don’t the Lib Dems, who are in control of the council, sort this out and take control?

    They are way more interested in the general election rather than Guildford.

    Gina Redpath was a R4GV candidate at the GBC election in 2023.

  11. Stuart Taylor Reply

    April 1, 2024 at 6:14 pm

    If I’m reading this correctly the Council already has a permission in place, they just haven’t built it that way. In the statement they haven’t really explained why they can’t just build that system, which presumably wouldn’t need to go back in for consultations and consents.

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