Council to fork out £800k for flood field

PUBLISHED: 08:00 18 January 2015

Flood signs near Churchill cross.

Flood signs near Churchill cross.

Archant

A FIELD is being rented for £800,000 to be a dumping ground for soil - this is North Somerset Council's strategy to stop flooding in a new housing development.

In order for the council and developers to continue with house-building in Weston Village, a strategic flood plan needs to be put in place.

The authority hopes it will scrape back the cash from section 106 agreements – deals made with developers – but first the council has to foot the bill.

The council purchased a £500,000 piece of land east of River Banwell last year for the project, which will have the surface soil removed to make a drainage ditch.

Now the authority is also looking to pay £800,000 for the 10.5-hectare field next door, which is owned by Derek Mead, in order to dump the unwanted soil.

By changing the levels on the land for the flood plan, it renders the fields effectively useless for agricultural purposes – meaning Mr Mead will get back the piece of land he loaned to the council for £800,000 and the next door field, for just £1.

The flood protection scheme was discussed at the latest North Somerset Council Strategic Planning and Economic Development scrutiny panel.

Some councillors were concerned about the amount of money being spent, but the council’s executive member for finance Tony Lake said: “We are under huge pressure to deliver houses. If the rest of the housing scheme is held up because we don’t deliver a flood strategy we will be under more pressure.

“If this soil is not dispersed on the land it will have to be dispersed elsewhere, transported through small village roads.

“This is a relatively small sum to pay for a solution which is relatively environmentally sound and takes away some of the potential pressures we could face.”

Council officers insist the cost of taking the soil off-site or using council-owned land would be higher.

Speaking at the meeting, Cllr Chris Blades said: “As far as I can see we are paying £800,000 to rent a piece of land and we are devaluing it – fair enough – so we are writing off the land.

“So the developers are going to pay it all back through section 106 anyway, so we aren’t going to pay for it at all.”

The council’s Revolving Infrastructure Fund, an £8million interest-free loan, will pay for the field until the council can recoup the costs during the planning process.

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