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.
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 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