MPs pour cold water on eco-town plans

West Sussex MPs Nick Herbert (Arundel & South Downs) and Nick Gibb (Bognor Regis & Littlehampton) have raised new doubts about plans to build an eco-town at Ford in the light of proposals to weaken the area’s flood defences.

Last month, the Environment Agency launched a public consultation on plans to reduce the standard of flood defences to the immediate south and east of the eco-town site, saying that current measures are unaffordable.

With an increased risk of flooding on the greenfield site, earmarked for at least 5,000 new houses, the MPs believe that the Environment Agency report further undermines the financial viability of the whole scheme.

The report will come as yet another blow to the Ford Airfield Vision Group (FAVG) who published their final proposals for an eco-town at Ford, including a flood defence plan, back in August 2008.

The FAVG assumed that the flood defences to the south and east of the proposed eco-town would provide protection against at least a 1-in-200 year event.  However, the Environment Agency is now proposing to abandon the 1-in-200 year level of protection, a move that will significantly increase the risk of flooding. 

On the west bank of the River Arun between the A259 and the Ford railway bridge the protection will be reduced to a 1-in-66 year level, and at Climping there is to be no formal flood defence protection at all.  The Environment Agency says it can no longer afford the high cost of maintaining the defences.

Nick Herbert commented: "It can't make sense for a Government department to be proposing to build a new town on a floodplain while, at the same time, a Government agency is planning to pare back on the flood defences.  The financial viability of this scheme was already in considerable doubt before this report was published, and will be even worse if there are now to be additional flood defence costs. 

"The case for the eco-town continues to fall apart.  The Government should drop Ford from the shortlist and allow Arun District Council to pursue its own plans for meeting the housing needs of local people in the district."

Nick Gibb commented: "This is a classic case of bureaucratic confusion.  One part of the Government is recommending abandoning a crucial part of the Sussex coastline, which we have to fight against.  Another part of this Government is proposing to build 5,000 houses in the area that would be more liable to flooding as a result of abandoning the coastline.  We have to fight that too.  Perhaps Ministers and their quangos should talk to one another."

The Government is expected to make an announcement on the final shortlist of potential eco-towns before Parliament rises for the summer recess on 21 July.

Ends

 

Notes for Editors

1. For a copy of the Environment Agency's consultation document, entitled 'Arun to Pagham Draft Flood and Erosion Risk Management Strategy', visit http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/research/library/consultations/107719.aspx

2. For the website of Communities Against Ford Eco-Town (CAFE), visit http://www.nofordecotown.com/.

3. For the campaign blog, visit http://www.nofordecotown.blogspot.com/.

4. CAFE can be contacted at PO Box 123, Arundel, West Sussex BN18 8BF, telephone 07721 300330 or e-mail campaign@nofordecotown.com. Its Patron is the Duke of Norfolk.

Ed Barker