Homes at risk if new market town is built

Actual waves on the Adur flood plain, just south of Henfield PICTURE: KATHY HORNIBLOW
Actual waves on the Adur flood plain, just south of Henfield PICTURE: KATHY HORNIBLOW

A PROPOSED new market town could have a devastating effect on Shoreham, Upper Beeding, Bramber and parts of Steyning.

Experts are warning thousands of people could be flooded out of their homes, if developers get the go-ahead to build 10,000 new houses at the top of the River Adur flood plain.

Mayfield Market Towns Ltd is promoting an area of land between Sayers Common and Henfield as suitable for the development.

But Mr Frank Preston, who worked as a flood defence agent for 30 years, believes building there would mean massive flooding in Shoreham every time it rains.

“The extra impervious run-off from houses and roads, that sort of thing, would just overpower the river,” he said.

Mr Preston, an expert on the River Adur, warns building more houses on its catchment could cause a massive flood which could potentially wipe out Shoreham Beach.

“They shouldn’t build at all; they really shouldn’t, honestly, because we’ve not got capacity on the river,” he added.

He said river levels were already just six inches below the bank at Shoreham Airport and it needed only a tidal surge for the water to flow everywhere.

The new settlement is proposed on 1,200 acres of countryside at Wineham, partly on the river’s clay catchment and partly on the 10-mile flood plain, which stretches from Shermanbury to the coast.

John Donaldson, former operations manager for the Environment Agency, with 35 years of experience in the water industry, said he was ‘horrified’ when he heard.

“The impact of the drainage system and surface water run-off will be a nightmare,” he said.

“We can hardly manage the run-off that we’ve got at the present time.

“There would be even greater flooding without doubt, to land, to property, to road systems and transport, everything.

“The upland catchment already has enough water in the meadows and fields. We cannot take any more water.”

He said the problem would be very difficult to overcome. “If I can be blunt about it, the best way is not to build there,” he added. “You would have to have quite an elaborate drainage system, way down to the lower reaches of the Adur to get rid of the water.”

In Upper Beeding, it is feared the village could return to the ‘bad old days’ at the turn of the century, when it regularly flooded.

Simon Birnstingl, chairman of Upper Beeding Parish Council, is worried about increasing volumes of water.

“The concern we have here is always that any water coming downstream has to go under Beeding Bridge, which is probably only about 20ft across and a very narrow structure that everything has to go under.

“Historically, until the river was embanked further in the 1970s, we used to have regular flooding here. We’ve got used to not having it and we don’t want to return to the bad old days when all the High Street ended up flooded.”

He said he was sceptical about the chances of engineering solutions to prevent flooding, if the new town went ahead.

“If they want to make a profit on the whole build – and we are told that these days the margins for these big building projects are fairly low anyway – they are going to have to engineer some kind of huge storm drain system and retaining tanks that would have to come down below us,” he added.

“Otherwise, again, we are going to have the same problem.”