Flood hurdle for garden centre site

PLANS to build a new garden centre on the site of the former Wyevale in Caddington have been refused by planning officers.

A businessman who lives next door to the Dunstable Road site had applied for planning permission to build a new centre but was turned down after officers at Central Bedfordshire Council decided the flood risk assessment was not up to scratch.

The popular Wyevale burned down in 2009 after a fire was started by an electrical fault. It left horticulture enthusiasts without a dedicated garden centre between St Albans and Toddington.

The company had planned to re-build the centre on the site, but last year dropped its plans, opting to sell the land to Raymond Gill, who lives at Erin House, for a reported £1 million, after deciding it was “surplus to requirements” for Wyevale.

Mr Gill, who owns a construction machinery company, Gleneden Plant, wanted to build a 960 square metre garden centre and 1,440 square metres of office space on the site, and said 129 parking spaces would be provided. It was estimated the centre would provide 90 new jobs.

But the Environment Agency raised concerns about the flood assessment for the site, which led to the application being turned down.

While the site has a low probability of flooding, officers said: “The proposed scale of development may present risks of flooding on-site and/or off-site if surface water run-off is not effectively managed.

“The submitted flood risk assessment fails to consider the effect of the critical one in 100 year climate change rainfall event on the site, fails to ensure that there is no uncontrolled surface water run-off from the critical event and fails to ensure that any off-site surface water run-off will be limited to ‘greenfield’ run-off rates.”

Councillor Richard Stay said: “Wyevale was a hugely valued facility and it was a real surprise that they didn’t want to re-build.

“I should think Mr Gill will re-submit the application – I don’t imagine he’s very happy to have the site there doing diddly squat.”

Mr Gill told the News/Gazette a new the flood assessment was being carried out.

He said: “They were going to pass it but the Environment Agency wouldn’t let them, that’s the only thing that’s holding it up.

“It’s being looked at again on February 2 and hopefully they’ll pass it. I can’t see a problem.

“The whole village wants the garden centre back.”