Response: You asked a series of questions. They have been addressed in the order they were submitted. I consulted the Chief Education Officer on some of your questions. My cabinet colleague, the Cabinet Member for Education and Young People is aware of the answers provided by the Chief Education Officer
Your questions are set out in italics.
Can you tell me if this information was shared with the education department and were they aware that any development plan on the Duffryn High School site would fail because of the restraints of TAN 15?
The letter to the Minister was not specifically shared with the Education Department as it related to concerns regarding Newport as a whole. However as part of pre-application discussions between Education, their agents and Planning Officers dating back to at least the latter part of 2014, Education and their agents were told that the site lies in a flood risk area and a Flood Consequences Assessment (FCA) is needed to establish actual flood depths and the resultant risk to life and property. The extent of the flood risk was identified in a draft copy of the FCA dated July 2015 and the final version was submitted to Planning on 8 October 2015.
Was this information shared before it was decided to spend money on preparing the site and other costs that would have been incurred resulting in a one million pound spend on a site that was destined to fail the planning process?
Who took the decision to allow this application to go forward knowing that it would build up the hopes of parents, staff and pupils at the school even though it was very unlikely to be successful?
In relation to these two questions, the Chief Education Officer has stated
Cabinet took the formal decision in June 2016 to proceed with the establishment of WM2 in Duffryn and to authorise officers to undertake the necessary preparatory work for the planning application. It was always known that Duffryn was in a flood risk area but that had not prevented other developments from going ahead. However, we could not have anticipated a hardening of the NRW objection after the planning application had been submitted and the Flood Risk Assessment had been carried out. NRW did not formally object until 20th November 2015.
There was still the option for Planning Committee to approve the application, despite the NRW objection, provided they were satisfied that there was an overriding educational need and the flood evacuation plans were adequate. Therefore, approval was still a realistic possibility. Only Planning Committee could make this judgement, so it was right and proper to let them take the decision
All of the preparatory costs would have been incurred as a requirement of submitting the planning application, so none of this was avoidable. The NRW would not comment until the detailed design had been produced, the flood assessments carried out and the full planning application was submitted. But no extra cost was incurred in allowing the Planning application to go through – which was another reason to let the application proceed to Committee.
A firm named Civil Engineering Solutions was used to produce a numerical model of the risk of flooding. This firm came to the conclusion that there was a one in twenty year flood risk from the River Ebbw even though this area had never flooded in the past fifty years and the sea defences firm the railway bridge near the landfill site right down to the lighthouse had been strengthened.
Was this report challenged by your officers?
The submitted Flood Consequences Assessment (FCA) was sent to the Council’s Technical Advisors, Natural Resources Wales (NRW). Planning Officers would not challenge the information contained within the FCA unless advised to by NRW.
I believe that this application is now destined to go before the full council and it would be a shame if the areas of concern around the refusal by the planning committee were not addressed. Can you tell me how you plan to address the concerns of the planning committee members?
The concerns of the Planning Committee Members will be addressed at the All Member Seminar on the 11th May 2016.