Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (FP 10)


  A total of 220-230 responses (some bodies sent more than one response) were received to the consultation paper published on 13 April 2000. Of these,

    —  about 140 were from local authorities and local authority associations (Local Government Association, Planning Officers' Society, Association of Drainage Authorities);

    —  10 were in-government (DETR, other Government Departments and Government Offices);

    —  nine were from Government Agencies (Environment Agency, English Nature, British Waterways, Planning Inspectorate, and Regional Flood Defence Committees);

    —  six were from professional associations (Royal Town Planning Institute, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, Institution of Civil Engineers, Chartered Institute of Water Engineering Management);

    —  19 were from national and local conservation groups (Wildlife Trusts, Royal Society for Protection of Birds, Council for the Protection of Rural England);

    —  10 were from parish councils or associations of parish councils; and

    —  24 were from private sector organisations, including eight house-builders, the water industry consultants and academics;

    —  and 15 from private individuals.

  The consultation letter had asked specific questions about:

    —  the clarity and practicality of the guidance;

    —  the use of a risk-based approach;

    —  whether a period of three years should be specified for review in the light of developing knowledge of climate change; and

    —  for any evidence to support or refute the view that the effects of implementation would be financially neutral and environmentally beneficial.

  Local authorities welcomed the guidance and felt that it was clear and non-prescriptive. Many considered their policies and procedures were already in line with the draft PPG. Concern was expressed about the adequacy and consistency of advice from the Environment Agency and particularly about the accuracy of the 1999 indicative flood plain maps. Many felt that these should not be included in local plans, partly to avoid clutter and partly because they were insufficiently accurate.

  The use of a risk-based approach was supported and of the two approaches illustrated they tended to prefer the Environment Agency approach to that of the Association of British Insurers. Many considered that the Government should specify high and low risk and indicate which of the two approaches would be preferred.

  A number considered that the explicit adoption of the precautionary approach could impact on economic development, particularly in relation to targets for housing use of previously developed land, and this needed to be addressed to a greater extent than in the consultation draft.

  The concept of sustainable drainage systems received almost universal support but many considered the advocacy within the draft PPG was somewhat tentative. A number of authorities, particularly drainage rather than planning representatives, commented on the need to resolve potential problems in respect of adoption for future maintenance. At least one authority considered that the whole area of responsibilities for drainage needed to be sorted out.

  There were mixed views on the three-year period for review. Some had no opinion, some felt that this would impose a useful discipline, some felt that information should be passed on as soon as it was available and some felt that it was too short a period in relation to regional planning guidance and development plan review timing, ie three years was too short a period to sensibly judge the impact of the guidance as it stood.

  Most local authorities considered that the draft PPG would not have any financial implications for them.

  In-Government responses supported the draft PPG and suggested generally minor editorial amendments.

  Government Agencies welcomed and strongly supported the draft PPG. They did, however, express concern that it did not provide sufficient protection to flood plains. The impression gained had been that if protection was provided it was alright to build on flood plains. They sought a firm statement of Government policy to protect functional flood plains.

  They felt that the risk-based approach could go further in terms of including a search sequence when identifying sites for housing, that there should be clearer definition of terms (high/low risk), of the weight to be given to flood risk considerations and specification of minimum standards of defence.

  British Waterways were concerned about potential impact on essential navigation and water-related development and on the redevelopment of previously developed land. They made a particular call for clarification of the differences between canals and other watercourses, and that the flood plain concept often did not apply.

  Professional associations generally supported the draft. They welcomed it as being clear, practical, balanced and well presented and that it raised the profile of flooding as a material planning consideration. Some concern was expressed about the advice on development plans being consistent with non-statutory plans. The three-year period for review was generally considered acceptable. There was slight concern that the draft PPG over-emphasised the Environment Agency role in relation to other drainage authorities and that it concentrated on river flooding at the expense of coastal flooding.

  Conservation groups generally welcomed the draft PPG but felt that it did not go far enough in not introducing a clear presumption against development on flood plains. In particular they called for clear criteria as to when development should be allowed in flood plains and that greater prominence be given to wildlife and biodiversity issues. They felt that the advice on climate change could be strengthened by including it in the main text rather than as an appendix. The need for consistency with shoreline management plans was welcomed, as was the advice on sustainable drainage systems.

  Parish councils welcomed the draft PPG but felt that it could be stronger by introducing a clear presumption against development in flood plains.

  House-builders generally felt that it was overly negative and was not sufficiently clear that safe development continued to be permissible. They felt that the introduction of the precautionary principle was effectively a presumption against development in flood plains.

  They considered that the onus for assessment of flooding was being transferred to the developer from the Environment Agency, who were best placed to consider flooding issues. The risk-based should be consistent with safe development and there was potential for the draft PPG to have a detrimental effect on housing targets for previously developed land.

  They also felt that the responsibilities for maintenance of sustainable drainage systems needed to be clarified before guidance was issued.

  Other private sector responses were mixed, with some feeling the guidance was too restrictive and others that it was not sufficiently clear in respect of high and low risk and the factors which could allow development in flood plains.

  Private individuals were almost unanimously from villages in or on the edge of flood plains and considered that there should be no further development on flood plains, that the Environment Agency should be given power to direct local planning authorities to refuse permission and that some of the terms could be clarified.

  The one notable exception was the Chairman of the Independent review of the Easter 1998 floods, who considered the draft to be a clear, non-technical exposition with the right tone in being persuasive without being dogmatic. The precautionary principle and suggestions on risk-based approach are particularly valuable. He also emphasised the need for much more work on public perception of and response to flood risk.


  In summary, the consultation suggested that the draft might be strengthened as follows:

    —  to encourage the avoidance of all but essential (eg water-related, utility and transport) development in the functional flood plains deliberately used to hold excess water in times of flood, unless there are wholly exceptional reasons;

    —  to commit to publishing supplementary information on the effects of climate change on flood risk, when this becomes available in a form which planners can use;

    —  to clarify the statements about flood-risk on the basis of MAFF's indicative standards for defining high risk (1 per cent and above chance of a flood recurring at any one place in any one year) and low risk (0.1 per cent chance of a flood recurring). These are the standards MAFF use in assessing the cost-benefit of flood defence projects;

    —  to clarify the basis on which authorities should ask for contributions from developers where their proposals require new or improved flood defences to be acceptable;

    —  to specify target standards for flood defence to be provided for new housing on the basis of MAFF's project appraisal standards. These are set at higher levels for the more intensively developed (urban) areas because more lives and property are at risk, than in less developed and populated (rural) areas, as follows:

      —  0.5 per cent for river risk in intensively developed areas;

      —  1 per cent for risk in other areas;

      —  0.3 per cent for coastal risk in intensively developed areas; and

      —  0.5 per cent for coastal risk in other areas;

    —  to encourage authorities to devise and implement planning policies which make more efficient use of previously developed land through better design and higher densities. This is in line with housing policies already set out in PPG3;

    —  to ask local authorities to include in their local plans where relevant specific flood risk management policies, and to issue supplementary planning guidance showing the current assessment of flood risk areas released at intervals by the Environment Agency;

    —  to ask local authorities to encourage the design of new development which does not increase surface run off from the site concerned, and if possible reduces it, and the design of re-development sites to reduce the previous level of run-off into rivers and streams;

    —  to encourage authorities to ensure that development, where it is necessary or can be justified in flood risk areas, and particularly in coastal flood areas, is designed to reduce the impact of flooding on the property (eg by allowing more rapid re-occupation), and provide more safety for occupiers;

    —  to encourage authorities to consider in the longer-term abandoning existing development which is unduly exposed and would compromise strategic flood defence options such as managed coastal retreat or the enhancement of flood plains for temporary water storage (but being mindful of their need to avoid compensation liabilities);

    —  to strengthen the encouragement of local authorities to integrate their land use planning for flood management with the local plans of the Environment Agency.


November 2000

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