Flood risk: the AFCW/Galliard plans

The below document is reproduced from the Wimbledon Park Residents’ Association website wimbledonpark.com, which has studied the AFC Wimbledon /Galliard Homes plans in great detail to see whether they meet planning guidelines. It’s quite a long read but raises some interesting points, that suggest the planning application fails to meet requirements for a flood plain.

“Flood Risk and the AFCW/Galliard Homes Planning Application
We first comment on the site and its flood risks.
F1 The Plough Lane site has been determined to be a functional flood plain, that is, it
is a site of highest risk of flooding with a 3b designation. It is, with one possible
exception, the site in Merton that is at most risk of flooding. Such a designation
implies that on average the site would flood 1 in every 20 years. These designations
were given in the study carried out for the environment agency and it is the designation
given to the site by Merton Council in the Sites and Polices Plan, formally called the
Local Development Framework document. Although the developers asked for the
designation to be changed when the Government Inspector held his review of the
LDF, this was refused.
F2 The detailed flood maps prepared for the Environment Agency show that the flood risk
on the site is 3b except for a narrow corridor of 3a flood risk along the eastern boundary
of the site. Thus almost all of the site is within a 3b flood zone, consistent with its
overall classification. The relevant flood map is on page 336 of the environmental
statement volume 2 of the developers’ application.
F3 The site consists of a stadium and a large car park. The car park is a flat area and it
can be used to store water in time of flood.
F4 The National Guidelines for Flooding are given in the National Planning Policy Framework
and the associated Planning Practice Guidance, updated March 2014 and found
– It states that the only developments allowed in a 3b flood zone are essential infrastructure
and water-compatible development. Indeed the former is only allowed if it
passes the sequential and exceptional tests discuss below. These permitted uses do not
include residential housing or anything like it. We note that in a 3a zone residential
housing may be allowed, subject to the two tests just mentioned.
– Furthermore any development on a 3b flood plain must result in no net loss of flood
plain storage, not impede water flows and not increase flood risk elsewhere.
– We do not share the confusion of the developers concerning the Planning Practice
Guidance which was revised in March 2014. In particular we find that the guidelines
are very clear as to what is permitted in a 3b flood plain, indeed it is set out in table 3
and is specified as stated above. The exceptional and sequential tests are to be carried
out subject to the uses permitted in table 3. The new guidelines have also changed
the way developed versus undeveloped land is to be treated and how this affects the
allowed development. However, the new guidelines do not make this distinction and
treat flood zone 3b as we have stated regardless of its previous use. This change
also invalidates part of policy DM F1 of the London Borough of Merton even as it
was revised during the visit of the Government Inspector, and renders the substantial
discussion in the planning application concerning the developed, or otherwise, nature
of the site irrelevant.
F5 We note that the original report carried out for the Environment Agency states for
this site that ’Residential development is not appropriate therefore lower vulnerability
uses should be considered. Significant mitigation measures required to demonstrate
safety of development, which is likely to be very challenging and will require significant
emergency planning and site design.’
F6 The site is subject to surface water drainage problems and it was flooded many times
this winter and in previous years. It has been suggested that this is due to the fact
that the site is on a gravel bed and some of the water is ground water in addition to
surface flooding due to rainfall.

Having set out the background to the site, we now comment on the full planning
application submitted by AFCW/Galliard Homes.

FR1 The plan submitted has been formulated on the assumption that the site carries a 3a
flood risk designation instead of the 3b flood risk which has been determined for the
site by Merton Council and the Environment Agency. The application notes that in
response to the developers’ challenge of the flood risk classification, the Environment
Agency has suggested that the developers carry out their own modelling but this they have declined to do. Thus the developers have failed to show that the flood risk is the 3a designation that their plans assume.
The large number of planning documents submitted have a somewhat schizophrenic
nature; they do occasionally admit that the the site is indeed largely a 3b flood plain
but for the overwhelming majority refer to the site as being flood zone 3, or largely
3a or a 1 in 100 year flood risk.
The developer does mention that it has not flooded since 1968. However, this is of
little statistical significance. Put roughly, if one is playing heads and tails and tails
comes up twice in a row, would you bet your house on tails coming up again?

The developers do not accept the 3b flood risk designation of the
site and as a result the submitted plans are not appropriate for the site that
actually exists.

FR2 The National Guidelines state that one can not build residential houses in a 3b flood
zone. The stadium, block B and indeed the entire development except block A are
completely in the area of flood risk 3b. However, even block A is substantially in the
flood risk 3b area.

All but one of the proposed buildings are in flood area 3b except block A
but even this one is largely in flood area 3b and thus they are not permitted.

FR3 The main mechanism for flood prevention is the possibility that the voids can be
flooded. These are car parks situated at the bottom of blocks A and B. They are
below ground level and are basements. It is explicitly stated in Merton’s Sites and
Policies Plan in policy DM F1, that basements are not permitted in a 3b flood plain
and so this invalidates the main mechanism for flood alleviation proposed in the plan.
The basements used to store the water in time of flood are explicitly forbidden
by Merton’s policies for a 3b flood plain.

The basements used to store water in time of flood are explicitly forbidden by Merton’s policies for a 3b flood plain.

They also mention that the football pitch can be used to store water, however, there
is no mechanism for the water to collect there rather than on surrounding land and in
any case they are only 0.1 m above the expected flood level and so cannot store any
significant quantity of flood water.

The developers do not have an effective or allowed flood storage plan.

FR4  As we have stated above, residential housing is not allowed in a 3b flood plain, however,
let us imagine for a moment that the site is in a 3a flood plain, even though it is not,
and consider if the plans pass the sequential test. This test can be used to permit
certain developments in a flood plain. However, this test must be applied to the part
of the development which has the highest vulnerability category and one must show
that there are no other sites with a lower flood risk where the development can be
The developers have simply not applied the sequential test to the very substantial
housing, the most vulnerable element of the plan. Indeed, no justification has been
given to suggest that the 602 residential units can not be built elsewhere in the borough.
Instead, the developers have incorrectly applied the sequential test to the football
stadium. However, they only take Merton as the area in which the test is to be
applied. In fact, according to the national guidelines (NPPF) the test should be
applied in a larger area for certain developments. The area that should be considered
is ”the catchment area for the type of development proposed”. Clearly, this is an
area well beyond the borough of Merton. Indeed, the postcode plots on page 588 of
the environment statement volume 2 appear to show that only a minority of AFCW
supporters live in Merton. We note that AFCW currently have a modern and well
equipped 5,000 capacity ground at Kingsmeadow in Kingston upon Thames which is
only about 7km from Plough Lane and 2.5km from the border of the borough of
Merton. Furthermore, the capacity of this ground has not, to our knowledge, been exceeded while AFCW have been there [except for one extraordinary occasion when their FA Cup draw saw them pitted against Liverpool FC] and so it is a puzzle as to why a larger stadium is required. We
also note that the homes of the AFCW football supporters as shown on page 588 of
the environmental statement volume 2 appear to be just as much distributed around
the Kingsmeadow ground as they are about the Plough Lane ground. We note that
the Greyhound Stadium on Plough Lane is not where AFCW used to play and so it is
not their historic home as is often claimed [AFCW has in fact never played a home game in Merton]. Thus when the sequential test is applied to the correct area, one finds no compelling need to build a new football stadium in Plough Lane.
We also note that an earlier report by Colliers identified a number of other sites in the
borough of Merton. On the basis of criteria which are questionable, it decided, by a
not large margin, that the Greyhound Stadium site was preferred. However, we think
that the consequences of the 3b character of the site were underestimated. Consequently,
there is not substantial evidence even within Merton that the Greyhound Stadium
site is the only home for AFCW.

Hence even if we were to imagine that the site possess a 3a flood risk, rather than the 3b which it does, the plans do not pass the sequential test.

FR5 The proposed plans wish to build, on a 3b flood plain, a very high density development
with a considerably larger footprint than exists on the site at present. It is
very difficult to see how this can lead to greater flood water storage on the site and
will not push water into the surrounding areas off the site. The flood compensation
calculations are presented in only one table which is called Wimbledon Greyhound
Stadium Summary of Flood Compensation Calculations. Given the importance of
this calculation one might have expected much greater detail and it is not possible to
check the calculations from the table given whose labelling is in any case unclear. As
such they are not of sufficient detail to provide a justification for the plan. However,
the discussion given above of the planning application does not incline one to believe
their result. We look forward to the Environment Agency’s calculations on this subject.
The developers have also failed to consider the flooding that could be caused
in the surrounding areas, that is, off the site, although this is a crucial component of
the national guidelines. One way to look at the calculation is to take the old and
new stadium alone and see if there is an increase in flood storage. Given the size
and construction of the new stadium it is very difficult to believe that there is any
significant flood storage. The other part of the development on the original site is a
car park which is to be replaced with the development of 602 residential units and a
retail store covering the site in a very high density development. It does not seem likely that there would be improved flood storage and this inclines us to doubt the claim to the contrary.

The developers have failed to demonstrate in a convincing way that their
flood storage mechanism increases the flood storage capacity on the site and
they have made no attempt to show that flooding will not increase off the site.

FR6 The underground basement car parks are voids which are designed to store water in
times of flood. As such they are open to any water and in particular the surface and
ground water so commonly found on the site. Hence these are likely to be frequently

The underground car parks could be subject to frequent flooding

FR7 The development must also pass the exceptional test; this demands that ”the development provides wider sustainability benefits to the community that outweigh the flood risk” in order to justify such exceptional development in a flood plain. As we note above, the national guidelines require that only water-compatible developments and essential infrastructure can go on a 3b flood plain and even then for the latter only if they pass the exceptional test.

We now consider some of the reasons given in justification by the applicants who assume that the site has a 3a designation.

– The developers state that Greyhound racing ”is not a sustainable operation moving
forwards, with the stadium falling into disrepair”. This is very disingenuous. As
we understand it, in 2005 Risk Capital brought the Greyhound Racing Association
(GRA) who owned a number of Greyhound stadia in the UK. It is fair to say that since
that time the infrastructure of the Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium has declined, but
despite this it still has about 1,500 spectators at its events. There is every reason to
believe that the proposal by Paschal Taggart for a new Greyhound Stadium would
be financially successful as even the current number of spectators is close, or even more
than that which is needed. Clearly, this number should very significantly increase if
a state of the art Greyhound Stadium is built as has been the case in stadia he has
built in Ireland. Risk Capital have now teamed up with Galliard Homes to build 602
residential units on the site and so make a very significant profit. We leave it to the
reader to conclude to what extent it is in their interest to ensure that greyhound
racing on the site comes to an end even though this will bring to an end almost one
hundred years of greyhound racing tradition on the site. We note that AFCW want to
build a stadium that has a capacity which is far larger than their current needs and it
is a leap of faith to believe that they can financially service such a stadium in the long

– The return of AFCW to the borough is generally supported. However, the postcode plot
given in page 588 of the environmental statement volume 2 gives the homes of the AFC
supporters and this appears to show that only a minority of the AFCW supporters live
in Merton. This would mean that roughly less than one in every hundred people in
Merton will truly benefit. Much is made of the community benefit of AFCW. However,
there is no reason that they can not continue this work where they are now.

– We believe that the development if approved will adversely affect the local area and even areas quite far away as we have spelled out in the transport section. This is likely to have very negative effects on the local residents and shopping centres leading to a significant decline of Wimbledon as a major shopping centre and the desirability of living in Merton. Thus this development will not enhance the local area as claimed.

– It is inappropriate to try to use the creation of a small number of jobs in a retail
store in such an exceptional test.

– The claims for benefit are even contradicted by section 6 of the Environmental Statement
of the developers and in particular the summary table called The Impact of the
Proposed Development and Significance. In this table it is stated that the effect of
the proposed development on direct/indirect employment generation, increased community
cohesion, increase of tourism and visitors to the area, strengthening of the
Wimbledon brand and sporting intensification to the area is of minor benefit to each
of these categories. Indeed the only source of major benefit is the contribution of 602
residential units to the housing stock, but as we have mentioned above these are not
allowed on a 3b flood plain and it has not been shown to pass the sequential test.

The arguments given to pass the exceptional test are very weak

FR8 The developers note that they have been unable to get the agreement of the Environment
Agency to their overall plan. Given this development is in a flood plain it is most surprising that they have not done so already at this late stage.

The plans do not appear to have the agreement, or have the support, of the Environment Agency

The developers have submitted plans for a very high density development in a functional
flood plain. This is intuitively incorrect and a detailed analysis of the plans show
that they are not compatible with the National Guidelines on flooding for the reasons
detailed above.”

Reproduced with the permission of Wimbledon Park Residents’ Association. Visit their site wimbledonpark.com

How to register your views/concerns about the Plough Lane development

One thought on “Flood risk: the AFCW/Galliard plans

  1. Pingback: Thank goodness for flood plains… | Wimbledon Stadium Watch

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