Local authorities not heeding flood policies, report says

Local planning authorities are not taking on board clear messages to avoid putting inappropriate building developments on flood plains, according to a government report.

The Environment Agency (EA) has expressed its concern that some local authorities are not sufficiently observing government policies designed to ensure development needs are met without creating unnecessary risks (see related story).

“Better application of national policy is vital”, the EA said in a statement, “to allow the important strategic development needs of the country to be met without potentially endangering people and properties.”

Although most local authority development plans do now include flood risk statements or policies, the EA reported that, of the cases it was aware of, nearly 15% of the planning decisions taken in 2003/04 were not in line with the government’s planning policy guidance on flood risk and development (PPG25).

This figure is, however, down from 37% two years ago.

Chief executive for the EA, Barbara Young said she applauded authorities that had taken PPG25 on board, but was concerned that so many local authorities were still not consulting the Agency on all applications in the flood plain.

“There is a persistent core of planning applications being approved contrary to our advice, including a small but significant number of major developments, many of which are for homes,” she pointed out.

“We are pleased that the government is consulting on whether to update PPG25, and we believe the evidence in this report shows that it should be updated. In view of climate change and the growth in housing needs, it is all the more important that we avoid planning decisions that create new flood risks to people or property.”

Planning Minister Keith Hill added that, while the report showed a considerable improvement in local authority performance since 2001, there were still a significant proportion of cases being approved in spite of sustained objections from the government.

“This must receive attention if we are to alleviate further the risks of flooding and help ensure all new developments are sustainable,” Mr Hill concluded.

By Jane Kettle

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