Posted by: swinemoor | May 5, 2010

The Exception Test

As previously mentioned in this blog, the Sequential Test used to justify the choice of site as Swinemoor Lane contained errors: this is something we will return to at a later date.

However, in addition to these errors, there are major flaws in the process that was used to justify the choice of site as Swinemoor Lane rather than the land next to the Ambulance Station.

Planning Policy Statement 25 (PPS25) says that the aim of the Sequential Test is to steer new development to areas at the lowest probability of flooding (Zone 1). However, in the case of the Community Hospital, this clearly did not happen, otherwise the site adjacent to the ambulance station would have been chosen as most of it lies in Flood Zone 1. Why was this?

It is common ground that the Swinemoor Lane site lies within Flood Zone 3a High Probability (PPS 25  p. 23) and that the Flood Risk Vulnerability Classification of hospitals is More Vulnerable (PPS25  p. 25). If you then refer to Table D.3 (below) it says that, if a hospital is to be built within Flood Zone 3a, an Exception Test is required.

For an Exception Test be passed it is necessary for the development to meet the three conditions set out in Section D9 of PPS25: these will be dealt with later, however, locating the Exception Test in the PCT’s Outline Planning Permission application is not easy, it is tucked away as an addendum to the Strategic Flood Risk Assessment (SFRA) and is dated 30th June 2009. This Exception Test was produced in response to a letter from the Environment Agency dated 27th October 2008 – the Sequential Test itself being produced on 2nd January 2009. What this means is that the EA informed the PCT’s agents (Curtins Consulting) that an Exception Test was required in October 2008 yet only a Sequential Test was produced following this request in January 2009, i.e. before the PCT paid the non-refundable deposit on the land at Swinemoor Lane, however, the Exception Test was produced after the deposit had been paid. In view of this there must have been a great deal of pressure on the PCT’s agents to demonstrate that the site on Swinemoor Lane passed the Exception Test. We will now look at this in more detail.

The three conditions that a development must meet to pass an Exception Test (PPS25  p. 27) are:

a) it must be demonstrated that the development provides wider sustainability benefits to the community that outweigh flood risk, informed by a SFRA [Strategic Flood Risk Assessment] where one has been prepared. If the DPD has reached the ‘submission’ stage – see Figure 4 of PPS12: Development Frameworks – the benefits of the development should contribute to the Core Strategy’s Sustainability Appraisal;

b) the development should be on developable previously-developed land or, if it is not on previously developed land, that there are no reasonable alternatives on developable previously-developed land;

c) a FRA [Flood Risk Assessment] must demonstrate that the development will be safe, without increasing flood risk elsewhere, and, where possible, will reduce flood risk overall.

Dealing with each of these conditions in turn, what evidence has the PCT’s agents used to justify that these conditions have been met? For paragraph 9a they have stated:

It is assumed for the purpose of this report that all parties will consider the wider sustainability benefits provided by the new hospital facilities to the community of Beverley outweigh flood risk. This requirement is therefore considered satisfied.

This cannot be considered a serious response to the question asked. PPS12 says that the Sustainability Appraisal should be an appraisal of the economic, social and environmental sustainability of the plan and should perform a key role in providing a sound evidence base for the plan and form an integral part of the plan preparation process. 

Do the Planning Department at ERYC really believe that this condition (9a) has been met by the two sentences written by Curtins Consulting and has the test formed an integral part of the plan preparation process? Section 9 (5) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 states

The local planning authority must also—

(a) carry out an appraisal of the sustainability of the proposals in each document;

(b) prepare a report of the findings of the appraisal.

Where is this?

We will now turn to the second paragraph in the Exception Test (see 9b above), here the response of Curtins Consultants is:

The Sequential Test has considered all other possible previously developed sites within Beverley for the proposed development. This requirement is therefore considered satisfied. The veracity of the Sequential Test has been dealt with previously: plainly this condition has also not been met.

The final condition in the Exception Test is concerned with flooding. The response of Curtins Consulting here is interesting, it says:

The Flood Risk Assessment prepared by East Riding Consultants Limited read in conjunction with Curtins Consulting supplementary report and drainage strategy report demonstrates that the development will be safe, without increasing flood risk elsewhere, and, where possible, will reduce flood risk overall. This requirement is therefore considered satisfied. This is interesting as the plans for the site have still to be finalised!

Whilst Curtins Consulting have made an attempt to deal with the conditions contained within the Exception Test, they have failed to provide any definitive evidence to back up their unsubstantiated comments. There must have been considerable pressure upon them at the time this supplementary report was written (30th June 2009) as the PCT had had already conducted their roadshows in Beverley, paid a non-refundable deposit and were intending to submit a planning application within a month. Of greater concern is the lack of scrutiny applied by the ERYC Planning Department of these unsubstantiated comments. Even a cursory glance at the conditions applying to the Exception Test would have shown they had not been met. What this demonstrates is that the site chosen for the community hospital is the wrong one and does not meet the Government’s selection criteria.


  1. […] the Sequential Test was not produced by GVA Grimley (not the ERYC) until the 19th July 2009 and the Exception Test was c0mpleted by Curtins Consulting on 30th June 2009. This raises some fundamental questions […]

  2. […] and other surveys, design and redesign buildings, carry out flood risk assessments, sequential and exception tests and design flood alleviation measures. If the PCT’s original ‘preferred site’ had […]

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