A Thames-side council in one of the areas worst-hit by the floods has strongly attacked the role of the Environment Agency.

Windsor and Maidenhead Council says residents who want to make their flood-damaged homes more resilient for the future must have easy access to up-to-date, specific planning guidance.

But it says the process is being ‘unacceptably delayed’ by the failure of the Environment Agency to provide necessary information. The council will now raise the matter with EA chairman Lord Smith.

The agency replied by saying it was working with the council and affected communities.

Councillor MJ Saunders, cabinet member for planning and property services, said he was at the end of his patience.

He explained: “We are aware of a number of people who were flooded out in February and feel this is a good opportunity to rebuild their homes on the same site but take steps to make sure they are much more flood resilient in future.

"That is to be admired but there are potential planning issues, for example having a raised building with a space below, impact on views over neighbouring property, issues around the local streetscape or access for people with disabilities.

“It’s not rocket science but for a solution to these issues we need the EA to engage with us so that we can bring together the most helpful pre-application advice for residents who, let’s face it, have already suffered enough.

“So far, however, our best efforts to get the EA’s attention have fallen on deaf ears. My fear is that, unless we move forward with this very quickly, we will eventually have a number of families unable to return to their homes because of delays to the planning process – caused by the EA’s failure to engage with the council and their lack of urgency on what should be a relatively straightforward matter.”

“Residents lives have been turned upside down by the flooding and this is one frustration too many which can be easily ironed out if only the EA would get switched on to people’s needs.”

An Environment Agency spokesperson said: "We have always supported the need to work together to find solutions to the concerns they have raised. We are discussing the issues at officer level and have drafted advice on flood risk issues that we will be sharing with them.

"Our advice will assist the council to reduce flood risk ... through appropriate development decisions, and will ensure rebuilt properties are far safer. We hope RBWM will use our advice when determining planning applications and also include our advice in their local plan polices."

Story dated April 3rd 2014.


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