Planning confusion increases London’s flood risk

The lack of any central planning body for London and the plethora of agencies competing for planning responsibility is putting London at risk of severe floods, a new report has warned.

Published by the London Assembly Environment Committee the report reveals that a web of agencies in the Thames Gateway area share overlapping responsibility for action to prevent flooding.

It stresses that, for the majority of defences, the landowner is responsible for paying for and implementing maintenance, yet it is often impossible to identify who owns the land.

Darren Johnson, chairman of the assembly committee told edie that: “the picture is highly confusing, to say the least, in terms of who is responsible, and for getting information for people implementing planning decisions.”

He said the planning system was “unnecessarily complicated”, blaming the Government for “being so keen to bring in their plans top down that they’ve set up a variety of bodies with their own planning powers.”

Different sites are subject to different master plans and local development frameworks as well as a number of strategies, meaning that developers and architects are unsure of standards required and whom to consult in advance of submitting planning applications.

He told edie that we should be looking to democratically elected bodies to give clarity and has called for a website to be set up by the Environment Agency to act as the main source of information for flooding and development in the Thames Gateway.

“It is vital that lessons are learned and action taken immediately to streamline responsibilities for flood defences and planning control in the Thames Gateway. Much of the development area is on the flood plain, which will put London at greater risk,” Mr Johnson said.

During the investigation the committee was told that five per cent of East London defences are in poor or very poor condition, while information on those outside London towards the coast is patchy and defences are thought to be in a worse state than those in London.

The report was cautiously welcomed by the Environment Agency. David Wardle, head of water management for the Agency said: “The report underscores our view that there must be continued and unremitting collaboration between all the major partners involved to achieve a successful outcome for London now, and for future generations.”

“We will be working with the GLA on the revision of their London Plan over the next few months. This collaboration will provide a means through which we can maximise the opportunities for successful flood risk management in London.”

However, Mr Johnson said he was particularly concerned about the Mayor’s draft planning policy for the area, the East London Sub-Regional Development Framework.

“These plans are simply not taking the flood risk issue seriously enough,” he said. “We urge that these plans are substantially revised.”

David Hopkins

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