Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by the City of Worcester (FP 04)


  Thank you for the invitation to submit additional comments on the draft PPG in the light of our experience of the last few weeks. I have forwarded the City Council's original comments[2] and I have now had the opportunity to consult my engineering colleagues who were involved in the recent flood emergency. We would like to take the opportunity to add a few points.

  Worcester experiences flooding from the River Severn on a regular basis. The Council has cleared some development from high risk areas, and since 1992 has had a comprehensive set of planning policies controlling development within the flood plain (based on 1 in 100 year event). The effectiveness of this strategy was proven in the events of recent weeks, and the flood plain mapping was also accurate. On the basis of this proven track record, we now propose to define flood plains for the other "main rivers" in the city as part of the Local Plan Review.

  My principal concern about the draft PPG is that there is too much emphasis on the resolution of problems by means of defences. Flood defences were modelled in Worcester's hydrological study in 1990 and were found to exacerbate flooding when major flood events occurred. The potential effects were clearly evident from the way the recent flood water flowed across the flood plain, as water levels rose and fell. Defences can give a false sense of security as major events will overtop them.

  In our view the PPG should give greater emphasis to directing development away from areas of flood risk. I do recognise that policies must be tailored to local circumstances and what is appropriate to Worcester may not be appropriate elsewhere, but the PPG must lead by establishing the guiding principles. I am aware of the likely debate about pressure for the development of brownfield sites and balancing this against flood plain issues. Although Worcester has a tight urban boundary and development pressures are acute, I still believe that the flood plains are not viable planning options for future development.

  You will appreciate that these are officer comments and have not been the subject of any committee debate

Mark Middleton
Head of Planning and Economic Development

16 November 2000

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