5 Development on the flood plain |
63. Building on the floodplain is an issue that often
receives public attention, particularly at a local level, and
via the media. This is perhaps unsurprising given that flood risk
areas cover 10 per cent of land and population in England.
On average, 13,000 new homes per annum have been built in flood
risk areas in the last nine years. The vast majority of these
are deemed to be adequately protected, often by flood defences,
and are not objected to by the Agency.
New development can also often increase the pressure on existing
public sewerage systems. We have previously discussed our support
of the abolition of the right to connect new surface water drains
and sewers to the public sewerage system (paragraphs 50-51), and
greater use of sustainable drainage systems for new properties
64. Many witnesses to our inquiryincluding
insurersstressed the need for strong development control
to prevent the building of homes in those areas of highest flood
risk. The Government
has recently introduced strengthened planning guidance, in the
form of Planning Policy Statement 25 (PPS25), to achieve this
aim. A number of witnesses directly involved with the planning
system said that, given time, PPS25 should be sufficient to prevent
The Agency described PPS25 as a "big step forward",
a "significant tightening and improvement of the legislation",
and said it had improved things in a number of ways. First, the
Agency was now a statutory consultee for development proposals
in flood risk areas. Second, the Agency had powers to "call
in" the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
if a local authority ignored its advice. Third, PPS25 was a "lot
clearer and tighter" than its predecessors in steering development
away from high risk areas.
Some witnesses questioned whether local authorities had the resources
or expertise to implement PPS25 properly, although the Government
has since announced that it will publish a "Practice Guide
Companion" to PPS25 to aid planning authorities with implementation.
65. Most witnesses did not support an outright ban
on development in the flood plain.
Hull City Council told us that 95 per cent of Hull was in a high
flood risk area, and an "overcautious" approach would
result in no more development in the city.
Similarly, Sheffield City Council also said such an approach would
"risk undermining the development and economic growth of
Both councils were instead placing emphasis on ensuring new development
was properly flood-resilient.
Similar views were expressed by Professor Penning-Rowsell of the
Flood Hazard Research Centre, who believed the focus should be
on adequately protecting properties.
Most of Sir Michael Pitt's seven interim conclusions in this area
also focussed on ensuring new properties in flood risk areasand
existing flooded propertieswere properly flood-resilient
and resistant, partly through changes in the Building Regulations.
support the Pitt Review's interim conclusions related to development
in the flood plain, to ensure new buildings in the flood plain
are properly flood resilient and resistant. It
is still early days for PPS25, and those organisations who use
the planning policy say it is working. PPS25 must be given time.
The success of PPS25 in the long-term, however, will depend on
whether local authorities have the necessary skills base to implement
it properly. As a first step,
we welcome the Government's announcement to provide a Practice
Guide Companion to ensure local authorities properly implement
PPS25, particularly in respect of the impact of development on
those downstream. We recommend that Government departments, working
with the Local Government Association, carry out a survey to establish
the present ability of local authorities to implement PPS25 and,
should a skills deficit be identified, put forward policies to
address this issue.
122 HC Deb, 8 October 2007, col 40W Back
HC Deb, 1 February 2008, cols 689-690W Back
For example, Chaceley Parish Council [Ev 402], Stroud District
Green Party [Ev 419], Royal & Sun Alliance [Ev 129]. Back
For example, the Royal Town Planning Institute [Q 638]. Back
Qq 73-74 Back
For example, the Greater London Authority [Q 637]. Defra, Future
Water, Cm 7319, February 2008, p 65. Back
For example, Margaret Bishop [Ev 409], the Institution of Civil
Engineers [Ev 499]. Back
Q 217 Back
Q 217 Back
Qq 203-204 Back
Q 123 Back
Interim conclusion 11, for example, states: "No new building
should be allowed in a flood risk area that is not flood-resilient,
and the Government should work with organisations such as the
Royal Institute of British Architects and the building industry
to encourage flood-resilient building and development design".
Pitt Review, Learning the lessons from the 2007 floods,
December 2007, pp 133-134. Back