Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Flood Risk

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 The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM when John Prescot was the postholder) already provides policy guidance to local planning authorities that ensures the risk of flooding is taken very seriously during the planning process.  We work closely with the Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Environment Agency to provide sensible and viable solutions to flood risk. 

Flood defences for existing properties, the responsibility of DEFRA, combined with protection in the planning system to prevent inappropriate new developments on flood risk areas, the responsibility of the ODPM, are the best way to safeguard against flooding.  The current planning policy on flood risk, Planning Policy Guidance 25: Flood Risk was published in July 2001 and already provides significant safeguards against inappropriate new development in flood risk areas.

This is important as around 10% of the total land in England lies within areas of flood risk, including much of London and York.  It is unrealistic to suggest that we can halt all development in these areas, especially if they have adequate flood defences, as this would stunt economic development and prevent the delivery of much-needed homes and services. [comment: Freshford Mill proposal does not provide much needed homes & services]

The Office of Science and Technology found that risks from flooding are likely to increase over the next 30-100 years due to climate change.  It agrees with ODPM that sensible planning and appropriate flood defences should enable the risks to be managed without halting necessary development. [comment: Freshford Mill is not necessary development]

Planning for flood risk - the background

In developing new communities and regenerating existing ones, care is already taken by local planning authorities not to place development in unsustainable locations in terms of flood risk.  All development, wherever it is in the country, must be in line with the current planning policy, PPG25.  This aims to ensure flood risk is considered at all stages of the planning and development process from regional plans, to local plans and individual site development.

Both regional and local plans should identify areas of flood risk, guide development to areas at least risk and include policies to reduce the risk of flooding and the damage that floods cause.  Already, all development proposals in flood risk areas should be accompanied by a flood risk assessment, and local planning authorities should consult the Environment Agency. 

PPG25 has succeeded in raising the profile of flood risk in the planning process.  The percentage of applications permitted by local planning authorities against sustained Environment Agency advice has almost halved since PPG25 was introduced.  [comment: so a half of all planning applications ignore the advice of the Environment Agency!]

Planning for flood risk – new action by ODPM

There is an obvious and continuing duty for the Government to review the management of flood risk.

In March we made a joint announcement with DEFRA on a wider package of proposals on flood defence and coastal management matters to be pursued in the new Parliament. News release, Strengtherned (sic) planning policy for flood risk areas will endure sustainable development - Hill.

As part of this package, ODPM committed to consult on proposals to update planning policy to provide a more strategic approach to the management of flood risk. 

Before the end of the year, we will publish a consultation draft of Planning Policy Statement 25 “Development and Flood Risk”, and we plan to publish the new PPS25, and a standing planning Direction on flooding, if it is supported by the consultation responses, in mid 2006.

The consultation draft of PPS25 will emphasise the need to consider flood risk as early as possible in the planning process, focusing on core policies that are clearer and easier to understand and strengthening guidance on the need to include Flood Risk Assessments at all levels in the planning process. 

The draft PPS25 will aim to clarify the sequential test, which allocates development to areas of least flood risk first. It also matches the nature of the development to the level of flood risk. For example, highly vulnerable uses such as hospitals should not be permitted in areas of high probability of flooding, but leisure and tourism development might be appropriate.  This approach manages flood risk while allowing necessary development to take place.

In addition, we will consult on strengthening the role of the Environment Agency, making it a statutory consultee on planning applications in flood risk areas so local authorities have to consult the Environment Agency before they give planning permission.

We will consult on whether to introduce a 'Flooding Direction'.  This would provide greater scrutiny for major developments proposed in flood risk areas.  Where local authorities intend approve applications that the Environment Agency still objects to, ODPM could consider whether to call them in for decision by a Minister.

Our proposals have been welcomed by both the Environment Agency and the Association of British Insurers and we have been working closely with all stakeholders to develop the draft PPS25. [comment: at present Local Authorities can ignore advice!]

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