The letter from Graham Stevens (w/e 23 August) and his concerns for the Cobblers Hall Nature Reserve prompted me to actually read the planning documents and I now also have concerns, rather different ones but also involving water.
As expected water from roads and impervious surfaces of this high density site is to be directed into drains (but I note that in July 2013 Northumbrian Water were requesting ‘further assurances re the restriction of the surface water discharge into their network).Also with any new housing water usage increases with car washing, gardening etc. – water which does not go into the drains.
It is apparently planned that the run-off from the remaining land is to ‘ be fed ‘ into the wetland areas; in particular the Pond which is marked on the plans but is not shown as such on any maps I have yet found.
Google maps actually show four boggy areas; two particular wet areas which are to be amalgamated further NE into ‘The Pond’ and it’s surrounding ‘wetland’ . This could and I believe should, be of serious concern to the occupants of surrounding land and, more especially, houses. The other two wet areas visible on the Google map are behind the PCP and the shopping precinct and may or may not be of interest to those commercial ventures and the houses directly opposite.
The area is a bog; in rainy conditions parts are already virtually impassible on foot. In fact much of Newton Aycliffe is built on wetland. I didn’t realise just how wet until I moved here and found that apart from an inch or two of soil the rest is clay – the stuff used to line reservoirs to keep the water on site. Perfect for soggy sites.
I am continually amazed by the number of residents, met in the street, shops, pubs and even the Leisure Centre Gym, who are quite voluble on their, sometimes quite severe, problems with waterlogged gardens yet do nothing about it. Not just during the exceptional 2012 but also in the early part of this year, 2013.
After enquiry of Northumbrian Water and County Planning, the Environment Agency finally were the only people able to advise that the Water Table level is 20m below ground level – at the main aquifer – BUT that is at a bore hole at Low Copelaw 1.8k westward. What it is at Cobblers Hall no-one knows. It is much more relevant that the substantial layer of impermeable clay under Newton Aycliffe is in effect ‘perched groundwater’ (Wikipedia is a good start) which in practice means that surface water cannot easily escape down to the Water Table level as in normal soil – and is acknowledged in the documentation So it does what water does best and slowly(?) leaks away down-hill resulting in a saturated landscape and boggy gardens.
The Moor Nature Reserve lies on the 375’ contour and falls away eastward, partly towards the Golf course and mainly towards Woodham Burn on the 300’ contour about 1K to the east. There are water issues in both areas. Any land and properties in between those contours have a propensity to experience wetter gardens for longer.
A surprising number of homes are already being affected by unwelcome surface water, suggesting that (if) any consideration has been previously given to such developments it may well have been less than adequate. Climate change is now virtually beyond dispute and our weather is becoming wetter; a trend forecast to continue for the foreseeable future. So the situation is likely to worsen unless better foresight is employed – most especially in wetland building sites such as this one.
It follows that if the surface water is to be directed into ‘The Pond’ it is going to be concentrated into an area much closer to the housing in Agnew, The Ballarat and Woodham, and all other areas beyond which lie downhill of the Moor. That surely cannot be a good idea unless the most stringent measures are introduced to absolutely ensure that properties in susceptible areas are fully protected, remembering that the impermeable clay level is only inches below the surface. To do this ‘The Pond’ would need to be proofed against seepage and provision made for excess water to be run off into the main surface water drain.
I fully appreciate that the Nature Reserve has an interested following even, as now, without an actual pool but the introduction of ‘The Pond’ now shown on the plan as a permanent feature and very much tucked up into the North East corner ot the Moor must be subjected to stringent planning if it is not to exacerbate an already existing surface water problem.
J D Whittaker
Water Problems at Cobblers Hall New Housing Site