Glasdir flooding due to 'flawed planning', residents claim
- 5 November 2013
- From the section North East Wales
People living on a Denbighshire housing estate where devastating flooding affected 122 homes last year claim flawed planning led to the problem.
Residents on the Glasdir Estate, Ruthin, say they want to know why their properties' floor levels do not match those outlined on their latest plans.
Many believe they could have avoided the floods had their floors been higher.
Denbighshire council has said the floor levels met minimum requirements.
BBC Wales' Week in Week Out programme has discovered the council is facing legal action following the floods on 27 November last year when the River Clwyd burst its banks following days of heavy rain.
When work began on the Glasdir estate every house was given its own floor level measurement.
In 2010 the plans were updated. What residents have found is the majority of houses have been built to a lower level than the figures listed in these plans.
Residents said that after a year of asking they still had not received any answers.
Poppy Williams, who lives with her family on the Glasdir estate, told the programme the flooding happened less than a year after moving into their new home, and while she was eight months pregnant.
"We've seen approved plans that show our property should be at a certain height, approximately 55cm (22in) higher than it actually is," she said.
"We had 15cm (6in) approximately of water in the house and so to my mind that does suggest that had we been at the correct level - i.e. 55cm higher - we may not have had water in the property.
"And considering the nature of the estate and where it was built - it was built on a flood plain - and considering the flood risk that everyone was aware of, it beggars belief that they didn't check the floor levels."
Hugh Ellis, of the Town and Country Planning Association, said it was vital to get these details correct when building on a flood plain.
"When you're thinking about conditions on a planning application or what you're telling the developer it should be crystal clear what floor levels are required," he said.
"But ultimately this is about the regulator.
"When you are going to develop a site as vulnerable as this it's absolutely critical those standards are set out properly - and ultimately it's the local authority and with the expert help of what was then the Environment Agency to sort that problem out - and any kind confusion on that is going to lead to the problems you have here."
As the regulating planning authority, it was Denbighshire council's job to make sure the right levels were made clear to the builder.
The council admitted it did not provide written confirmation that it had checked the floor levels as was required, and it had no records that floor levels were checked by its staff.
But it has said the floor levels built met Environment Agency, a body now known as Natural Resources Wales, minimum requirements.
A report by independent investigators in September this year said the flooding was largely caused by blocked culverts.
The report said screens around the culverts on the estate were poorly designed and did not comply with recognised standards.
The council was not blamed but said lessons must be learned.
Millions of pounds were spent on flood defences by the then Welsh Development Agency (WDA) which built Ruthin's northern link road and the culverts which blocked last year.
The WDA, which no longer exists and has been absorbed into the Welsh government, also built the earth defences or bund that was supposed to protect the estate from anything but a one-in-a-thousand-year flood.
Housing and Regeneration Minister Carl Sargeant declined to be interviewed for Week In Week Out but said the Welsh government had a robust policy of not building housing in flood risk areas.
But BBC Wales has discovered that 26 residential schemes were given the go ahead last year alone, six of them against all advice.
Natural Resources Minister Alun Davies said the Welsh government was spending £240m on new flood defences across Wales.
About the Glasdir estate, Mr Davies said: "It's shocking, what happened in Glasdir. I recognise the impact of the flooding there on people and their families and their community.
"We are looking at the moment how we respond to Glasdir and the flooding, we are looking at all the different elements of that.
"We know that one of the primary causes wasn't simply the flood defences were not adequate, but the culverts weren't being maintained and clear.
"It's not a matter for the flood defence not being adequate, it's the about the management of those defences as well."
Denbighshire council declined to be interviewed for the programme.