Memorandum by West Sussex County Council
FLOODING IN THE CONTEXT OF PPG 25
1. The County Council welcomes the opportunity
to submit its comments to the Select Committee on this issue.
It submitted evidence to the House of Commons Agriculture Committee
on Flood and Coastal Defence in 1998 and forwarded comments to
the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions on
the draft of PPG 25.
2. Extensive areas of low lying land, and
a subsiding land mass make West Sussex particularly prone to flooding.
Recent tornadoes, together with coastal and river flooding may
be indicative of the fact that the predicted detrimental impacts
of climate change are already becoming manifest. The County Council
is most concerned and has been at the forefront of efforts locally
to publicise and to understand and adapt to the impacts of climate
change. It is increasingly looking for mitigating measures and
for advice on learning to live with a changed climate.
3. The current Structure Plan (approved
in 1998, but not adopted) has strong land use policies to prevent
development that would cause or increase danger from flooding
or erosion. For example, policy G12 states that: "in areas
at particular risk, or potential risk, from natural causes, including
flooding, erosion or storm, new development or the significant
intensification of development will be resisted. Permission will
also be refused for development which would increase the risk
of flooding or erosion elsewhere, or development which could take
place only with the enhancement of sea or flood defences".
4. Local planning authorities in dealing
with applications for planning permission have regard to the views
of the Environment Agency, current DETR guidance and the relative
importance of the issue in the context of other policy considerations.
5. It must be recognised, however, that
changes in that part of the built development pattern that is
controllable through the planning process form only a relatively
small part of the several processes that might influence the incidence
of flooding. As well as climate change and isostatic sea level
adjustments, important factors include agricultural and forestry
practices, road construction and improvement, road maintenance,
water-course straightening and channelling, the provision of drains,
sewers and culverts, and the inspection and clearance regimes
for all water courses and drainage channels.
6. Currently, the Environment Agency allows
some development in flood risk areas if suitable protection or
mitigation measures are carried out or the particular use proposed
has a relatively low risk associated with it. This is reflected
in the wording of the current draft PPG on coastal and flood defences.
Such measures, if they can guarantee the safety of the occupants,
may be acceptable, but the County Council is aware that flood
defence engineers state that no defence is perfect and is inclined
to the view that most development in flood risk areas should be
7. The County Council is currently reviewing
its Structure Plan, including those policies related to flood
defence and coastal erosion. Using the evidence available, it
is trying to take account of the likely impact of climate change.
8. It has studied the draft PPG 25 and believes
that it lacks the necessary clarity to enable the Environment
Agency and local planning authorities to take a firm line in preventing
new development in areas at risk. The alternative approaches suggested,
particularly in the appendices, lead to ambiguity and uncertainty.
Terms such as "flood plain", "the life of the property",
"flood risk", "climate change" and "development
appropriate to the risk" must be clearly defined.
9. At the moment, where evidence is given
at public enquiries it risks being discounted by the Inspector
unless its authority can be clearly established. DETR must give
definitive advice to the Environment Agency and local planning
authorities on the scenarios for climate change which should be
considered, and ensure Planning Inspectors are fully aware of
the importance of this advice.
10. Lives are at stake and the public has
indicated that it does not expect local planning authorities to
allow development which is subject to periodic flooding. DETR
guidance and support for the Environment Agency and local planning
authorities must be sufficiently strong to ensure that when permission
is refused on the grounds of flood risk the decision will be supported
on appeal, provided that it was based on sound evidence. In times
of uncertainty on issues like climate change, the precautionary
principle (when used to justify refusal of planning permission)
should be supported.
11. More development in flood risk areas
or in flood plains in the short, medium or long term will result
in a high cost on the private and public purse. It will also mean
that a larger number of people will be at risk of suffering from
anxiety, property loss or damage and possible injury or risk to
life. Flood defence engineers argue that no defence can guarantee
complete immunity from flooding. Climate change predictions suggest
that extreme events will become more frequent and possibly more
intense. This means that people in such locations are likely to
suffer more, and the cost of business recovery will be high. The
cost to the public purse of warning systems, emergency services,
and compensation and recovery packages will increase.
12. There may be a case for a power of last
resort to be given to the Environment Agency so that it can prevent
development where there is likely to be considerable danger to
life (or property). Such a change in the law would require the
introduction of suitable appeal procedures for both the developer
and the local planning authority.
13. In determining whether or not there
is a risk of flooding on a particular site, the developer and
the Environment Agency must take account of:
1. The contours, slope and general location
of the site.
2. The standard of existing and potential
3. Intervening obstructions to flow.
4. The degree of investment likely in necessary
5. The impact of climate change.
6. The degree of risk to occupants and visitors
during the whole life of the property.
14. The Environment Agency's maps of flood
risk areas are currently inadequate for making decisions on local
plan allocations and individual development proposals. New maps
should be produced that reflect the criteria set out above.
15. More extensive research should be undertaken
to identify the cumulative effects of development on flood risk
to ensure that this is fully taken into account in the Environment
Agency's advice to local planning authorities on the future scale
and location of development and advice on individual development
16. More effort should be devoted to analysing
and coping with the dual effect of flood risk from the sea and
from river catchments in the vicinity of estuaries and tidal rivers,
given climate change predictions. Further research is required
on the potential for intermittent (and perhaps unrecognised) springs
and rivers to flood areas of saturated land.
17. The impact of development (or other
land use changes, and of agricultural activity) outside flood
risk areas on land inside areas at risk from flooding should also
be assessed. Anything which increases the rate of run-off or which
speeds the flow of rainwater towards a flood risk area should
be examined carefully, modified if possible, and taken into account.
18. There should be careful monitoring of
development permitted in coastal and fluvial flood plains. The
Environment Agency must be given adequate resources to fulfil
its functions and ensure that it deals with flood defence as a
19. Potential developers, purchasers, occupiers
and local planning authorities should be given clear advice (a
"flood risk assessment") by the Environment Agency on
the degree of flood risk on the site being considered for development
and on any property built on the site, in terms of the likelihood,
intensity, extent, speed and depth of a flood (in "normal"
and "extreme" conditions now and in say 20, 40 and 80
years time) and on the standard/quality and effectiveness of any
defences existing or proposed, taking full account of the predicted
climate change impacts during the expected life of the property.
The developer should be required to contribute to the cost of
undertaking such an assessment.
20. Flood risk information (ie the "flood
risk assessment") should be part of the local property search
proceduresthe LPA and EA should be consistent in their
advice, ie the local authority should provide potential purchasers
with a copy of the EA's "flood risk assessment". Future
purchasers/occupiers would have a right to see the assessment.
21. Developers should not be given the opportunity
to obtain planning permission merely by constructing defences
based on their own standards; although in certain instances they
ought probably to be required to contribute to compensatory defences,
and/or the erection and maintenance of new "community defences"
by way of a commuted sum related to the life of the property (ie
both flood defences and/or coast protection structures).
22. To give developers the right to build
where they provide resources to defend their property could result
in new development outside the main "community defences".
This could result in long term maintenance liability/responsibility
problems for the Environment Agency or the coastal protection
authorities and might set up potential conflicts with shoreline
management plans and new flood defence programmes, particularly
if the site is required for future defences or is the subject
of a managed retreat strategy. If privately constructed defences
prove inadequate, the moral, if not legal, obligations to repair
and strengthen them would probably at present fall on the public
23. Irrespective of arguments about the
control of future development in flood risk areas, the County
Council is firmly of the opinion that adequate resources should
be spent on defending all existing settlements in areas at risk
from flooding and helping them to adjust to the rigours and challenges
of climate change.
24. In particular the County Council would
wish to ensure that adequate resources are provided by Central
Government for the improvement and future maintenance of flood
defence and coastal protection schemes. Residents of coastal and
riverside towns and villages, many with a rich heritage and vibrant
community with a strong attachment to their local area, are entitled
to expect the public authorities to find ways to protect them
where practicable, from the elements.
25. The County Council believes that a review
of methods of financing flood and coastal defences and property
insurance in flood risk areas should be undertaken to determine
how future needs can be met from the public and private purse.
The review should also encompass compensation arrangements for
those land and property owners directly effected by decisions
in shoreline management plans and coastal defence strategies to
abandon or realign coastlines or create new defences.
26. It would expect the costbenefit
methodology used to determine the level of support from MAFF for
coastal and flood defences to fully reflect the social and wider
economic benefits of the schemes (eg in terms of public and business
27. The County Council would expect PPG
25 to include clear guidance on:
(a) how the Environment Agency, coastal protection
engineers and the local planning authorities ensure that developers
contribute appropriately to the cost of maintaining/strengthening
defences (during the life of the property)clear formulae
must be devised;
(b) the scope for undeveloped or previously
used land within and adjacent to urban areas to be used as a drainage,
flood control, wildlife habitat, pollution control, amenity, recreational
and/or potential food growing resource and not simply being an
opportunity for further development;
(c ) mitigation measures to manage/alter
the land use pattern/drainage arrangements within or adjoining
settlements to reduce existing and future flood risk and, in particular,
to protect land within urban areas from development if they are
required for drainage or flood control purposes;
(d) how to plan for the extension of flood
defences or, where essential, managed realignment solutions, including
the reservation of land and, in extreme circumstances the relocation
of land uses (including compensation arrangements);
(e) clarification of the legal responsibilities
for allowing and building new development in flood risk areas
ie the various responsibilities of landowners, developers, purchasers,
central government, the Environment Agency and the local planning
(f) the relationship of coastal flood defence
to coastal protection and coastal erosion, in terms of land use
planning, and in particular the need to consult coastal protection
(g) the relationship between land use planning
and building control in minimising flood risk or coastal erosion;
(h) how it can be made clear exactly what
the basis for and significance is of any lines on proposals maps
in development plans indicating "flood risk" areas.
28. The County Council believes that there
must be a much closer link in central government between flood
defence/coastal protection and land use planning/economic development.
That may best be achieved by giving the DETR wider areas of responsibility.
There also needs to be a much better link between shoreline management
plans, coastal defence strategies, Local Environment Agency plans,
water level management plans and land use development plans to
ensure not only that, when possible, their timetables coincide
and the public are fully involved in the whole consultation process,
but also that they are properly co-ordinated.
29. The County Council has strong views
about the way coastal protection and flood defence issues are
handled and especially the number of organisations that are involved
in the process. In particular it believes that strategic planning
authorities should have a central co-ordinating role, in partnership
with the Environment Agency and other local authorities. It would
be pleased to elaborate on this issue.
30. A much more strategic and holistic approach
should be adopted to the issues and the fragmented nature of the
flood and coastal defence arrangements reviewed. Strategic authorities,
given appropriate resources and powers, are best placed to bring
greater coherence and direction to this vital area.
31. West Sussex County Council hopes that
this evidence and all the detailed points raised in its previous
submission on PPG 25 will be taken into account in PPG 25.
County Planning Officer
16 November 2000