Memorandum by English Nature (FP 06)
DEVELOPMENT ON, OR AFFECTING, THE FLOODPLAIN
1. In the light of increased storminess
and rainfall events, English Nature believes that a long-term
strategic approach to flood-defence planning is now needed, and
that there are distinct benefits from working with nature wherever
2. English Nature, therefore, recommends:
2.1 the adoption of catchment-level flood
management strategies and flood defence planning;
2.2 greater use of washland areas and land-use
changes in order to reduce flood risks;
2.3 consideration for the development of
an incentive scheme for landowners and land managers to facilitate
flood relief measures.
3. Such an approach will help to reduce
flood risk to vulnerable human settlements, be cost effective,
protect valuable wildlife habitats and contribute to habitat-creation
targets in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.
4. The recent flooding of Lewes in West
Sussex illustrates the need and opportunities for such approaches.
Flooding of the town resulted from river water meeting a tidal
surge in a constrained channel. Opportunities for creation of
washland exist above the town on agricultural land and below the
town on Lewes Brooks SSSI, which requires higher water levels.
The SSSI could be used for freshwater storage. There is also the
opportunity to create saltmarsh, through set back of flood banks
in the estuary. These options should be considered as part of
a strategic approach to flood management in the Ouse catchment.
5. English Nature made a detailed response
to the DETR consultation on PPG 25 on Development and Flood Risk
in June 2000. The key messages in our response, which we would
a higher profile should be given
to the risks and uncertainties associated with climate change;
there should be a presumption against
(rather than in favour of) new development in high flood-risk
developer-funded defences do not
provide a solution to permitting development in flood-risk areas;
guidance is needed on how the planning
system can help tackle the historic legacy of development in high-risk
locations through use of "adaptive measures".
6. In the current situation, we would add
two further points for consideration:
that the Environment Agency could
be given additional powers to request the "call-in"
of planning applications, where the planning authority is minded
to grant consent for inappropriate development in flood risk areas.
that planning authorities should
be involved inand party tocatchment-level flood
7. In urban areas, developments can be designed
with porous materials which allow more of the rainfall to percolate
into the ground. Combined with sustainable urban drainage systems,
this should help to alleviate flash run-off problems.
8. In rural areas, targeted restriction
of under drainage and arable cultivation in sensitive areas could
help to relieve run-off problems. More rainfall could be retained
in the upper-catchment gathering grounds in order to moderate
peak river-flows. Ways of improving water retention include restoration
of canalised streams, re-creation of meadows, pasture and wet
woodlandall of which would benefit biodiversity.
9. A more natural functioning of flood plains
is a key element of a strategic catchment approach. This will
involve creating new areas of "washland" into which
river flows can be diverted. An example is the Nene Washes, which
helped to protect Peterborough from the worst of the Easter 1998
floods, and where 1,310 hectares of farmland have been designated
as a European Special Protection Area for birds.
10. English Nature is undertaking research
into appropriate incentives that could be offered to farmers and
landowners for providing areas of washland. If some of the flood
risk can be reduced by creation of washlands, it should lessen
the need for extra urban defences, which are very costly to construct
17 November 2000