The water authority advised residents of an East Devon village facing an imminent ‘super inquiry’ into whether hundreds of homes should be built there, “not to use their toilets” during the New Year’s Day flooding due to the risk of overflowing sewerage.
Feniton neighbours woke to a deluge of water from overflowing drains running through their streets yesterday, including run-off from the fields where developers are hoping to build.
South West Water confirmed it is pledging £150,000 in “extra storm water storage” at the village’s pumping station to help alleviate flooding.
A £1.5m multi-agency flood defence scheme is also due to be implemented until next year.
In a few days, on January 7, a Government inspector will hear the appeals by three developers for up to 235 houses in the village.
The developers appealing against East Devon District Council’s decision to reject their applications are, Wainhomes, which wants to build 83 homes near Louvigny Close; Feniton Park Ltd, which is vying for 32 at Acland Park; and Strategic Land Partnerships, which wants either 59 or 120 on land west of Ottery Road.
As previously reported by the Echo, Feniton Parish Council has been awarded the right to take a full part in the inquiry.
Such is the strength of feeling among residents against the hopes by the developers to increase their village by almost half again that almost £6,000 was donated in a matter of weeks, to help fund its legal representation.
District ward member for the village, Councillor Susie Bond, said she is “angry” that the village still faces the prospect of increasing by 40 per cent when the issue of flooding is so extreme.
She described how on New Year’s Day, sewage was discharging into the village for the third time in 10 days.
“Water was gushing off the Wainhomes site through the children’s play area, through the allotments and risking houses further down the road,” she said.
“Sewage was pouring out of the drains on Ottery Road and a resident who called South West Water was apparently told not to use her toilet and to suggest the same to her neighbours – and this is 21st century England!”
Cllr Bond described the sewerage network as “inadequate”.
“Feniton has really had enough,” she continued. “The village has been on flood alert for much of the Christmas period, but so far the flood prevention measures put in place on individual properties have held and while roads and gardens have flooded, the houses have remained safe.
“This is largely due to district council engineers who have organised for ditches to be emptied, turning out on New Year’s Day to see what could be done.
“But what makes me really, really angry, is that in less than a week away, the super inquiry into mass development starts.”
Despite facing 235 homes, as part of the district council’s emerging Local Plan document, which outlines where thousands of homes could be built over the next decade, Feniton is allocated just 35 houses.
Cllr Bond said the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework guidelines mean local authorities must demonstrate they have enough land to satisfy the likely demand for housing over the next five years, which the district council cannot yet do, leaving East Devon in a “vacuum of uncertainty” over where development should happen.
She added: “The sustainability credentials of the village will be thrashed out during the inquiry in front of a planning inspector who will decide the fate of the village.
“But those of us who waded through flood diluted sewerage in the village over new year know exactly how sustainable Feniton actually is.”
A South West Water spokesperson, added: “We appreciate that this must have been a very stressful time for villagers in Feniton.
“If an individual property’s sewage pipe is blocked, we do sometimes advise residents to restrict toilet use to help prevent internal sewage flooding at that house.”
The inquiry is being held at the Flybe Training Academy at Exeter Airport.