Public inquiry backs ‘key’ development

A PUBLIC inquiry into a stalled planning application at a Wrangle agricultural firm has concluded the flood risk assessment by the Environment Agency (EA) was ‘implausible’.

A bid by Staples Vegetable Ltd for 41 caravans for overseas workers at its Sea Lane site has been granted planning permission by Eric Pickles, secretary of state for communities and local government.

The application, submitted in March 2009, had been supported by Boston Borough Council, but deemed too vulnerable to coastal flooding by the EA – prompting the public inquiry to resolve the dispute.

The inspector’s report concluded, however, the EA’s forecast – based on the worst-case scenario Coastal Study – was ‘implausible and overly conservative’. They agreed the Staples site area was better described as an ‘estuary’ rather than ‘open coast’.

Head of planning and strategy at Boston Borough Council Steve Lumb said the authority was ‘very satisfied’ with the outcome and ‘pleased’ its planning procedure and judgment had received such an endorsement.

He stressed, however, the authority recognised the importance of such EA flood risk assessments, but applications must be considered on balance with the value to the borough and this project for Staples was ‘key’ to the agricultural economy.

Mr Pickles granted, however, only a five-year temporary permission to allow for the scheme to be reassessed if circumstances change.

An EA spokesman said: “‘As this application was for a small number of caravans for the next five years only, this is very different from the much bigger, longer term issues looked at in the Coastal Study. The judgment accepts that the development is contrary to national flood risk policy and although we are disappointed we understand that there is a balance to be achieved.”

The spokesman added the EA ‘fully support’ the science and modelling put in place to inform the Coastal Study and would continue to use it to guide development.

l What do you think? Email david.seymour@jpress.co.uk