Chorley village church will be bulldozed for houses - but what will it mean for flooding?

The demolition of a village church in Chorley looks set to go ahead to make way for new houses – in the face of fears from existing residents that the plans will worsen flooding in the area.

By Paul Faulkner
Monday, 8th February 2021, 7:39 pm

St. Luke’s Church in Brinscall is not listed on any local or national register, meaning that it can be flattened without planning permission, under what are known as “permitted development” rights.

Back in September, Chorley Council approved – in principle – the four executive houses that have been proposed to replace the late nineteenth century building, which closed in 2018.

The authority’s planning committee has now given the go-ahead to the technical details relating to the plans – but members heard concerns about the impact of the proposal on what locals say is already a significant flood risk.

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St. Luke's Church in Brinscall was last used in 2018 - and will now be demolished and replaced with houses

The area lies in “flood zone 1” – considered the least likely of locations to flood – and is not close to a river, nor in a spot where the Environment Agency has identified “critical drainage problems”. That means the council does not have to seek a flood risk assessment (FRA) from the applicant.

However, a villager told the committee that a study should nevertheless be demanded, because of the real-world experience of those living in the vicinity. Cara Barlow said the access point to the existing and planned properties on Quarry Road was actually at a high risk of surface water flooding.

“Houses on School Lane nearby regularly flood – and have flooded four times in the last 12 months. These properties filled with rainwater and sewage and School Lane is a bus route – and is often impassable once flooded.

“Flooding happens at key points where the sewers meet. A new connection to the networks will [place] an additional amount of water in the system that will exacerbate flooding, along with climate change,” Ms. Barlow warned.

However, Graeme Thorpe, the agent for the application said that the scheme had not been the subject of any objections from statutory consultees.

“There is no statutory requirement for an FRA and [water company] United Utilities have not objected to the proposal in terms of surface water impact – there are no technical reasons to prevent approval being granted.

“The benefits of approving this scheme for high-quality housing on a brownfield site are considerable – [it’s] a sustainable location in a settlement area and comprises previously developed land,” Mr. Thorpe said.

A planning condition will require the approval of a sustainable surface water drainage plan before work on the development can begin.

Papers presented to the committee reveal that the Environment Agency did not consider that there was “sufficient evidence” to merit an FRA, although United Utilities said that “insufficient evidence” had been provided to show that the applicants – a Mr. and Mrs. Lewis-Pierpoint – had fully considered an alternative to sending surface water into the sewer system.

However, principal planning officer Iain Crossland said that United Utilities’ concern was to ensure that the “most sustainable ways of draining the site” had been explored, “rather than [the] actual impact on surface water drainage – because there is a technical solution [to that issue] that they accept”.

Councillors appeared to be drifting towards deferring the application – either for a site visit or to request further information on the drainage plans.

However, planning services manager Adele Hayes said that it was “normal practice” for drainage matters to be dealt with by condition – and the committee voted by the narrowest of margins, seven votes to six, to approve the application outright.