Flood worries delay affordable homes for older people

The early morning scene overlooking the River Blackwater before last Saturday's Maldon Prom

The River Blackwater at Maldon - Credit: Carl Marston

Planners have delayed a decision on a new retirement village-style development after concerns were voiced over tidal flooding worries and affordability of the homes.

Lewis and Scott Retirement Living Ltd has submitted the proposals for 29 houses near the village of Tollesbury.

The company says the scheme will help address a shortage in homes for older people and will be 100% affordable.

However, Maldon District Council’s north-western area planning committee voted to defer a decision on the project to allow the applicants to make amendments in an attempt to satisfy concerns over affordability.

Officers disputed that the houses met the necessary criteria to be considered affordable homes, and that the level of development would have a detrimental impact on the character and appearance of the area, particularly because of the loss of woodland.

Concerns were also raised by Tollesbury Parish Council over the potential risk of tidal flooding from the nearby Blackwater and Estuary, which feed into the North Sea.

Helen Tidswell, co-founder of Lewis and Scott, said: “There is a critical shortage of affordable homes for older people.

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“It’s a national problem but it’s particularly acute in Maldon. It’s a rapidly ageing population and there have been no affordable homes built in the district since they were made a priority in 2017.

Maldon District Council offices

Maldon District Council offices - Credit: Charlie Ridler

“People are living in properties that are unsafe, hard to manage and expensive to heat.”

But the chairman of Tollesbury Parish Council, Simon Plater, said the Environment Agency had issued guidelines advising that the sea level will rise by a minimum of 1.2m by 2125 due to the effects of climate change.

He said: “In particular we have considerable concern about the position of the site and its potential significance of tidal flooding.”

The Environment Agency though has not objected to the proposals, given that the site is in Flood Zone 1, the lowest-risk area.

Local resident Peter Hope spoke in support of the scheme, saying many people in the village were ageing and would soon need services like these, including a friend who is suffering from dementia, anxiety, depression and insomnia.

He said: “This development would mean that they could stay in the village close to their friends and network of support.

“There isn’t an appropriate alternative for them, it’s as simple as that.”