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

Memorandum by Devon County Council (FP 13)


  The County Council welcomes the opportunity to contribute written evidence to the Environment, Transport and the Region's Select Committee in its consideration of Development Control in the context of flood defence. As you will appreciate, given the very short notice for the submission of written evidence, this response is not as comprehensive as we may have wished.

  While the County of Devon have been fortunate in that it has for the most part avoided the extreme conditions and catastrophic flooding experienced elsewhere in the nation over the recent weeks, here damage to property has been severe and communications have been disrupted. At the time of writing the Tarka Line (Exeter to Barnstaple rail link) remains closed due to flood damage.

  Having previously experienced major incidents of flooding in the County, the County Council has been particularly concerned over the issue of flood risk in the County and has been pro-active in addressing these issues. In March this year the County Council organised and hosted a roundtable meeting with interested organisations including local authorities, the Environment Agency, Flood Defence Committee, South West Water, MAFF, CLA and NFU, which culminated in the issue of a summary of outcomes. This document has led to subsequent recommendations in respect of storms and flooding in Devon for adoption by the County Council, and was referred to all Devon MPs.

  I enclose a copy of the "Summary of Outcomes" together with the recommendations made to the County Council's Environment Scrutiny Committee for your information.[5]

  The County Council was also pleased to respond to the DETR consultation on new PPG 25 "Development and Flood Risk" in June 2000, copy of this response is enclosed.

  These papers together provide a catalogue of measures which the County Council commends for consideration and appropriate action by Government. In respect of Development Control, we would draw the following matters to the attention of the Select Committee:

  Devon County Council:

    (i)  considers that the Minister for the Environment, Transport and the Regions be urged to grant the Environment Agency powers to insist that local authorities protect flood plains from inappropriate development rather than advising them to do so, as is the case at the moment.

    (ii)  recommends that the Environment Agency should either have powers of direction over planning refusals/conditions or the law should require developers to pass the Agency's advice in full and unaltered to all prospective purchasers, tenants and insurers of the property concerned.

    (iii)  is concerned at the inference in the Draft PPG (Paragraph (7) and paragraph 19) that the Environment Agency might be retreating to a more strategic role in providing advice on flood issues and the possible consequent increased responsibility for the interpretation of flood risk that may fall on local planning authorities LPAs (paragraphs 33-37) and (paragraphs 39-40) without additional resources to buy in the necessary expertise;

    (iv)  is concerned that the draft guidance on Development Plans and the risk based approach (Paragraphs 26-36) may undermine other recent national Planning Policy Guidance encouraging the regeneration of previously developed ("brownfield") sites. Vulnerable sites may require some external funding boost for flood protection works if their regeneration is to become viable;

    (v)  considers that the Environment Agency should be given a clearer role in publicity, education and informing LPAs on flood risk and flood prevention;

    (vi)  welcomes the detailed advice given in Appendix E of the draft PPG on Sustainable Drainage systems, but feels that LPAs should be empowered to insist on such measures as the norm for all new development;

    (vii)  regrets that the Draft Guidance has not specifically required potential developers to undertake Drainage Impact Assessments for their development—assessing the impact of their developments on flood risks elsewhere;

    (viii)  is concerned at the impacts that the range of activities outside planning control can have on exacerbating downstream flooding problems, including agricultural practices (hedgebank removal, ploughing across contours, intensive agricultural techniques—in particular the growing of maize as a forage crop), the creation of impermeable surfaces that consideration be given to the tightening of "permitted development" rights for certain categories of development;

    (ix)  welcomes the recognition given in the consultation to the possible effects of increased storm intensity as a result of climate change and supports the intention to review PPG 25 after three years to reflect the likelihood of better information on climate change.

  We understand that the proceedings of the Select Committee are not an opportunity to make representations on the subject of flood defence funding which is a subject of other initiatives. We would, however, hope that the Select Committee would endorse the views that to permit proper planning and prioritisation of the flood defence programme, the Government should commit itself to a funding programme over (say) three or five years, rather than the present annual round, and that there is a need to reform and simplify the present funding mechanism for flood defence which is over complex, and that these views be forwarded to the appropriate body.

Edward Chorlton
County Environment Director

20 November 2000

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