Business School plan poses “significant flood risk”

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The Environmental Agency has advised that the proposed business school be rejected because they believe it “will pose a significant flood risk”. The City of Durham Parish Council has also formally opposed the development.

The application is still formally pending consolidation, and the final decision on the project will be made by Durham County Council.

The development would involve the demolition of the disused Elvet Waterside Swimming Pool and other disused buildings. The prospective site is located near the Philosophy department and a site used as a Covid-19 test centre this year.

In a letter dated 21st May 2020, a specialist at the Environment Agency advised Durham County Council that it objected to the development, which would be elevated on stilts to prevent flooding.

Government guidance states that developments with this classification should not be built on ‘functional floodplain’.

The Environment Agency advised the application for the new Buisness School be rejected for two reasons. Firstly, the site is classified as ‘functional floodplain’ with a high probability of flooding. The development would be classed as ‘More Vulnerable’ because of how the building would be damaged by flooding. Government guidance states that developments with this classification should not be built on ‘functional floodplain’.

Secondly, the Flood Risk Assessment was deemed not to “adequately assess the development’s flood risks’’ because the environmental agency “consider that the proposed development will pose a significant flood risk on site and off site”

With regard to the proposed use of stilts, the Agency added that it would reduce the impact of the development but would not “replace lost floodplain storage without changing the flooding mechanisms”. Though using stilts might mitigate the risk to the development itself, it would not be “floodplain compensation” because the development could still increase flood risk to the surrounding area.

“The proposed development will pose a significant flood risk on site and off site”

the Environment agency

The agency also voiced concerns about setting a harmful precedent of allowing development on areas that flood frequently, especially as this becomes more frequent in some areas due to climate change.

In a letter dated 9th October 2020, City of Durham Parish Council listed several reasons for rejecting the proposed development. Aside from concerns raised by the Environmental Agency, the Council argued that the proposal did not meet the specific requirements needed to build within the Durham City Conservation Area. These include “protecting important views of the Durham City Conservation Area” and “having materials, detailing and lighting appropriate to the vernacular, context and setting”

Originally, the University intended to finish the project, moving the business school nearer to the city centre and converting its current site to a social sciences hub, by 2022. According to reports in The Northern Echo, the University is now discussing locating the new business school at the Sands.

Durham University was contacted for comment.

Image by Alexbouditsky via Wikimedia Commons

3 thoughts on “Business School plan poses “significant flood risk”

  • What a lot of sh1te from the Environment Agency!

    “the site is classified as ‘functional floodplain’ with a high probability of flooding.
    “With regard to the proposed use of stilts, they … would not “replace lost floodplain storage without changing the flooding mechanisms” “it would not be “floodplain compensation” because the development could still increase flood risk to the surrounding area.”

    Only the lower part of the site is floodplain, which has the baths building in it. The development would replace the massive form of the baths in the functional floodplain with a flood attenuation pond. How is that not increasing the floodplain storage? If it isn’t enough in the eyes of EA, make it bigger. If that isn’t enough, remove the bunds upstream which stop the grass playing fields opposite Maiden Castle flooding (https://goo.gl/maps/SHbnN3bBQzYX8wcXA)

    The upper part of the site was covered in buildings which have already been demolished, the new Business School would add to the height & massing on the site but not the amount of land that was built upon.

    The replacement site for the Business School is meant to be the new Durham County Council Head Quarters down by the river and the new baths. This is in the functional floodplain but it won’t flood as they’ve built it on piles which have lifted the building several metres above the floodplain so it now has less than a 1 in a 1000 flood risk. How is that different to what the University proposed?

    So instead of the University getting a bespoke world leading facility that would link Hild/Bede to Elvet Riverside and up to Mountjoy and then the Hill Colleges, they are getting a second hand second rate facility in the wrong part of the city, away from the Library, colleges and other academic buildings.

    PS you’ve spelt business wrong “…application for the new Buisness School be rejected”

    Reply
  • Environment Agency not “Environmental.”

    This should really please the county authorities who very much wanted to be rid of the new county council building planned by Labour and build a suburban office development instead, but whose report said they could only do it if negotiations with a prospective tenant (the only one currently negotiating is Durham Business School) fell through. How convenient.

    So now instead of both the county authorities and the business school being located in the city centre providing business to an ailing high street, Durham continues to sprawl and the business school will lack a purpose built facility (the Sands building was set up with offices only, and not classrooms and common areas in mind…and definitely not the world class architecture that was proposed for the new site.)

    Reply
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