Select Committee on Agriculture Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60 - 65)



  60. As far as the draft was concerned, I think you had reservations that you wish this to be beefed up so that there was this presumption against the development. Do I take it from what you have said, you feel you are making progress with the Department?
  (Dr Mance) The Minister made a statement to the Environment Select Committee last Wednesday which was very encouraging. I will believe it when I see the PPG finally drafted. Perhaps I am getting old and cynical but the proof of the pudding is in the eating and once we see the guidance then we will be confident that we actually have it. We do want the system to put the onus on the developer to seriously show that they are dealing with flood risk. If it is in a flood risk area and it is unavoidable, then they should show they are building sensible houses.

  61. Have there been cases where, in fact, the local authority has ignored your advice and granted consent? Do you put in any special measures thereafter to ensure that the disaster does not occur, which you may have feared?
  (Dr Mance) We do seek, if the planning authority is clearly going to go ahead against their advice, so-called mitigation measures. We try to make sure, if possible, that the planning authority will seek a section 106 agreement where they get either a financial contribution or work undertaken by the developer. In those circumstances we are dependent upon the planning authority enforcing that. It is an agreement with the planning authority rather than ourselves. We might then find it necessary subsequently to undertake works ourselves using the funds we have.

  62. So they put you to a cost, although they ignored your advice?
  (Dr Mance) Yes, we effectively have the public purse subsidising the profits of a developer, which is never satisfactory.

  63. Local authority searches. Do you believe your representation or objections should be shown on that search?
  (Dr Mance) We are close to agreement with the Law Society to ensure flood risk and indeed a number of pollution issues, are actually taken account of at conveyancing by solicitors, in a search conducted at that point in time. I think that is the most sensible way of dealing with it. It picks up on all properties. Avoiding new flood risk is important. Of the planning applications we currently see coming into system, if we analysed those and extrapolated against 4 million new homes, it would be something like 350,000 new properties in risk areas. That is almost another million people living in risk areas and we do not want to see that. But we already have 1.8 million homes in risk areas and it is important at conveyance that they become aware that they are in a risk area, so that they can find out about it and find out what to do. You are not going to succeed raising awareness otherwise.

Mr Todd

  64. The Highways Agency has a power to direct a local authority to reject a planning application where it does not comply with Highways Agency standards.

 Would you not wish to have a similar power to insist on a rejection of a particular application to a local authority?

  (Dr Mance) We have agonised over this over the last few years. We have always come to the conclusion—

  65. Where has the agony ended?
  (Dr Mance) We have always come to the conclusion that we did not want to end up being the largest single planning authority in the country. There are substantial parts of the country at or below sea level, artificially drained and behind substantial coastal defences. To have an NDPB such as ourselves making decisions whether there should be any new homes or new employment opportunities in East Anglia seems inappropriate. We believe it should be in a democratic system. We believe the system should be required to take due account of flood risk. For instance, we do not want to see bungalows approved if they are going to sit behind four-metre high flood defences. That just does not seem sane.

  Chairman: Gentlemen, thank you very much indeed. Will you give our best wishes to Mr Empson and hope that he is better. We do not usually have that impact on people!

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