Proposals for Northern Ireland flood risk policy announced

Flood risk assessments will need to be submitted by developers in Northern Ireland if new initiatives by the Northern Ireland Executive (NIE) to reduce the risk of future flooding are approved.

Under the proposals, developers will also have to demonstrate how these risks can be managed.

Outlined in the NIE’s Revised Draft Planning Policy Statement 15 Planning and Flood Risk, the proposals will be consulted on along with a proposal to address safety in reservoirs.

This will require developers to provide assurances about reservoir safety before planning permission is granted for any new development close to reservoirs.

Within areas protected by flood defences but still at risk from flooding, under the proposals there will be increased safeguards. This means that new developments where the young or vulnerable are potentially at risk from flooding, such as hospitals, schools, nursing homes and nurseries, will not be permitted. Similarly, developments housing hazardous substances that would pose a health risk in the instance of flooding would also be refused planning permission.

In coastal flood plains there will be greater flexibility to facilitate development when the flood risk has been mitigated through raising the land to an appropriate level. There is also new guidance on sustainable drainage and the flood proofing of buildings in flood risk areas.

NIE environment minister Mark H Durkan said: “Up until the beginning of this year, there has only been one year [2010] that did not experience a serious local flood incident. Given the predictions for climate change, the frequency of these events is likely to increase in the future.

“While flooding is a natural phenomenon that cannot be entirely eliminated, we in government need to do all we can to address this recurring problem which can have devastating impacts on individuals and communities − especially the vulnerable.

“I believe it is important to ensure that the planning system continues to manage new development so as to further reduce the risk of flooding to people and property. I also think that developers building near reservoirs should take responsibility for ensuring their safety – making this a planning condition should help create a safer environment,” he added.

Leigh Stringer

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