Bristol’s popular caravan club faces an uncertain future after a government minister canceled planning permission to move to the banks of the River Avon – because he said he feared people would die in case of flooding.
The Bristol Caravan Club is being moved from its site at Baltic Wharf on the harbor near the Cottage pub, as the City Council intends to build apartments there.
The Caravan Club had agreed to move to the former police dog and horse training center across the Cumberland Basin in Clanage Road between Ashton Court and the River Avon – but the move has been bogged down in a planning controversy.
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The Caravan Club’s initial application to convert the police training center into a caravan site with 62 pitches was cleared by Bristol City Council planners, but was ‘called off’ by the government due to fears of floods. Then last summer a government planning inspector said all would be well and gave them permission to move, pointing out that the Caravan Club was bringing in £1million a year to the tourist industry in the town.
The planning inspector said she was confident there would be enough flood warning given that high tides in the Avon Gorge as well as any huge storms could be predicted in advance .
But now the Minister of State for Housing, Stuart Andrew MP, acting on behalf of the Secretary of State, has reversed that decision and refused the Caravan Club permission to move, after the Environment Agency s opposed again and said she feared people would die if it flooded quickly.
In his written judgment on the planning saga, Mr Andrew said he preferred to believe the Environment Agency and admitted that the height of flood waters could rise if a storm or flood coincided with a tide high – and how quickly it might happen – are “very difficult to predict”.
The Caravan Club and the Environment Agency argued over what happened earlier this year when Storm Eunice hit Bristol and shut down the city, with dire warnings of flooding and high winds. The Caravan Club argued that despite what has been described as the worst storm in 30 years coinciding with a high tide, warnings from the Met Office and the Environment Agency came hours in advance, and there would have been plenty of time to evacuate the caravan site, if it was operational then.
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But the Environment Agency said any future storms, tidal surges or floods may not be so easy to predict. Mr Andrew’s report said: “The Secretary of State also considered evidence from the Environment Agency, as set out in its March 4 statement, that in the case of the storm Eunice, there was huge variation in the forecast and significant uncertainty continuing through to the event.
“It further notes evidence from the Environment Agency that the timing of the storm relative to the extreme tidal range in the Bristol Channel makes a significant difference in the maximum water height in the River Avon and this is very difficult to predict. Overall, the Secretary of State is more persuaded by the evidence from the Environment Agency on this matter. He considers that the specific events and circumstances relating to the storm Eunice do not provide strong evidence to support the Appellant’s case and do not allay his concerns about the risk of flooding in the circumstances of this case,” the report states.
The government minister said evacuating the site in sufficient time was too risky as it depended on human behavior.
“The safety of the development would totally depend on the timely actions of the site guardians and the cooperation of all occupants, and that the flood warning evacuation plan is based on the precondition that everyone has left the site. before a flood.
“He notes that there is no doubt that if flood warnings and flood alerts were not followed promptly and the site was flooded, there would be disastrous consequences which could result in loss of life,” he added.
“He considers that in view of the potential risk to life, a highly precautionary approach is warranted. Overall he is more convinced by the evidence from the Environment Agency and considers the assessment by the Agency of potential problems that may be encountered during an evacuation is more realistic.
“Like the Environment Agency, it considers that at every stage of the evacuation process, the applicant is dependent on fallible processes. It further agrees that there remains a residual risk of failure, whether by failure of forecasting, failure of the warning system, failure to perform the FWEP correctly or the risks inherent in unpredictable aspects of human behavior.Like the Environment Agency, it further considers that the applicant has no plan to manage these residual risks,” the report added.
So the Caravan Club no longer has planning permission to move to the Clanage Road site and faces an uncertain future in Baltic Wharf, where the council’s own housing company, Goram Homes, has plans for 166 flats. there – plans that sparked a long campaign against development, which even saw a group of women ‘marry’ the trees at the Baltic Wharf site.
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