News Walthamstow

School flood defence wall green-lit despite neighbour concerns

St Mary’s Church of England Primary School in Walthamstow this week won permission to install a concrete flood wall that neighbours have said could worsen local flooding, reports Josh Mellor, Local Democracy Reporter

St Mary’s Church of England Primary School. Image: Google Maps

A Walthamstow school has won permission to build a flood defence wall despite concerns that it will put neighbouring homes at risk.

St Mary’s Church of England Primary School, on Brooke Road, plans to install a new one to two-metre-high concrete wall along its boundary to improve flood resilience.

During torrential rainfall in July 2021, the flood waters reached 70cm within two hours, damaging homes and forcing the school to teach classes in portacabins during repairs that cost “over £9million”.

In a bid to reduce the risk of flood damage during future heavy downpours, the council has since installed rain gardens and underground tanks along the road.

Headteacher Jennifer Matthews told a planning committee on Tuesday (10th October) that without the wall “it is a question of not if, but when” future floods would cause further damage to the school.

Three Brooke Road residents attended the meeting to complain that designers and council officers – who recommended the wall’s approval – had “failed to address” its impact on the rest of the neighbourhood.

Pat Ado said: “I am concerned that with the frequency of flood events and poor condition of the pipes, there is a risk of flooding – especially with a flood wall built along the school.”

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In an early consultation on the scheme, 17 neighbours sent objections to the council.

However, John Clayton, Waltham Forest’s senior drainage and flood engineer said that “extra capacity” on the road and six new rainwater storage planters on the school grounds will take pressure off drains under the road.

He added: “In our view, the mitigation measures in place are going to go a long way in lowering the risk of flooding, but it’s difficult to guarantee how a particular flood is going to react. 

“All we’re able to do is put in a maximum amount of flood storage in the area with the funding that is available at the time.

“We’ve designed the best scheme we could to reduce flood risk and maximise capacity in that area that we’re able to do.

“I believe it’s going to significantly reduce risk in the area and bring levels down.

“We can’t definitely say that the scheme is going to 100% protect the school, but we can say we’re going to put in the maximum amount of flood water storage.

“We put all the extra storage capacity we could possibly build into the area with the available funding that we had.”

When Conservative committee member Emma Best pressed the planning team on whether the wall would create an “adverse risk” to neighbours, planning officer Sonia Malcolm said the risk has “got to be lower” thanks to the school’s planters.

Labour’s four committee members voted to approve the scheme, while Cllr Best abstained.

For details of the planning application, visit Waltham Forest Council’s dedicated website

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