Oldham to consider flood-proof homes

Manchester-based architect Ollier Smurthwaite is seeking approval for five flood-proof homes on land in a flood zone off Ladcastle Road in Oldham.

The one-acre site, which sits in a valley between the villages of Uppermill and Dobcross, is bounded by the River Tame, making the area susceptible to flooding.

The firm hopes the homes, which would be built on behalf of local developer Energon Cube, will be approved in the coming weeks now a planning application has been submitted.

The four-bedroom houses will be built from natural materials and sit on stilts, lifting them above the ground to leave the natural floodplain of the river untouched and able to accommodate flooding when required.

The homes are designed to be “off-grid” and to benefit instead from solar panels and a ground source heat pump. There are also plans to use the river as the water source for the development.

This approach to house building could combat the effects of climate change, which has seen swathes of the UK flooded over the last two weeks.

OS Flood Proof Homes

The David Chipperfield-designed River and Rowing Museum, which sits on the banks of the river Thames, is cited by the architect as a key precedent for the Oldham development.

The museum, which is raised on concrete stilts, is located in an area prone to flooding when water levels rise due to heavy rainfall.

Matthew Ollier, partner at Ollier Smurthwaite, said: “It is not every day you get to design something in a flood zone. Historically, building in a flood zone has been done with little or no consideration and displaces water from an existing floodplain and moves the problem elsewhere.

“The intention is that the development should have minimal impact on the natural flora and fauna and leave it as undisturbed as possible. Rather than surrounding the houses with conventional fencing and planting, the natural materials of the houses sit in the natural landscape.”

When asked if his firm was planning any similar projects, Ollier confirmed it is looking at other sites close to urban centres where it hopes to apply the same philosophy. He said: “I think everybody has got to [find solutions]; it’s the way to stop us all killing the planet.”

Paul Butler Associates is planner for the project, while talks with a potential landscape architect are ongoing.

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