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




  Proposals for development within flood plains or other areas liable to flood will only be permitted where the proposal will not be at the risk from flooding and/or significantly increase the risk of flooding elsewhere. Where detailed technical investigations are required to evaluate the risk of flooding, these shall be carried out by the developer.

  2.34  Flooding is an important land use planning consideration for the City of York, and work has been undertaken in recent years to achieve flood protection in an environmentally friendly manner. Given that the Rivers Ouse and Foss both run through the centre of York it will continue to be important to balance the pressure for new development with the alleviation of potential flooding. There is also a need for the beneficial effects of flooding on the natural environment to be effectively managed.

  2.35  Unless carefully sited and designed, new development or redevelopment adjacent to rivers can exacerbate the risk and problems of flooding, erosion and pollution downstream by increasing surface water run off from impermeable surfaces or by reducing flood plain capacity. Accordingly, the Environment Agency, British Waterways and the relevant Internal Drainage Board will be consulted before planning applications which might increase the risk of flooding are determined.

  2.36  If development is allowed in a location liable to flood, proposals will be expected to take this potential into account when designing the development (eg locating parking areas and access points in such a way that allow buildings to continue to be used during a flood). Important considerations will be:

    —  the capacity of the floodplain;

    —  flood heights;

    —  the contribution of existing or proposed alleviation measures; and

    —  access for emergency services.

  NB. The Council has also proposed to delete the word "significantly" from the policy to address the Environment Agency's outstanding concerns.

Memorandum by the Local Government Association (FP 20)


  Local Government Association made a response to Draft PPG 25 on Development and Flood Risk this summer. The points below summarises the key points made on a range of issues raised in the Draft Guidance.


  Sustainable solutions to flood control/risk minimisation should be sought wherever possible.


  The Government's commitment to review the information available on the actual and potential effects of climate change is broadly welcome. The LGA would like to see a commitment to regular, ongoing reviews to take account of any future changes in climate.


  The Environment Agency will have a key role. It must ensure that:

    —  It will have the staff and resources available to assist with preparing development plans and with dealing with individual planning applications.

    —  It enables local authorities to implement a long-term, sustainable flood defence strategy by providing quantified data on potential future changes in their area and detailed information on historic flooding, including the deputy of such flooding:

    —  With regard to measuring the potential risk from new development, it provides accurate information on the effects of particular developments, both locally and elsewhere in the region.


  In principle, the LGA supports the inclusion of flood risk information in local searches. However, it will be essential to ensure that there is a campaign of public education to back the system up:

    —  The public may not fully understand the difference between different degrees of flood risk, causing people anxiety and distress.

    —  There is a risk of damage to the value of property and the potential of planning blight arising in areas identified as at-risk.


  We support the principle that developers must contribute towards the cost of flood defences required as a result of their development. However, it is not clear who will be responsible for funding the remaining cost of flood defence measures where, for example, there is a wider benefit gained from the flood defences than just that required by the development itself.


  Many brownfield sites lie alongside rivers. While they may have been suitable for industry in the past, they may not be suitable for new housing developments. There is a danger that this factor could be a significant constraint on reaching brownfield targets in some areas. We need to cross-refer to PPG 3 with regard to brownfield housing development.


  Local authorities would benefit from good practice guidance from Government on risk-based approaches, sustainable drainage techniques and development of riverside brownfield sites.


  Following the Deputy Prime Minister's "wake up call" initiative on extreme weather conditions, the LGA has:

    —  been represented on a Flood Working Group, chaired by Elliott Morley MP, MAFF, which has looked at effects of recent floods;

    —  issued briefing on Severe Weather and Floods; and

    —  undertaken a rapid review of local authorities' experience of the floods; many authorities have replied, and replies are still coming in.

Renewal of Emergency Planning—Background

  The fuel crisis in September, and the severe weather more recently, have acted as a reminder of the important role played by emergency planning staff in local authorities, and have raised issues about the duties, powers and financing of the emergency planning (and response service in local government).

  During the "cold war", local authorities employed staff to plan for the possibility of nuclear attack; local authorities received, from the Home Office, ring-fenced Civil Defence Grant, under the Civil Defence Act 1948 (and further Regulations in 1993). As the cold war thawed and ended, the Civil Defence Grant was retained, but cut back over a considerable period, leading to a reduction in staff employed. Civil defence emergency planning staff were also used to plan for major civil emergencies (eg floods, plane and train crashes, terrorist incidents) and with the end of the cold war, this work came to dominate the agenda of emergency planning officers. This led to concerns about the statutory basis of this new civil emergencies work, which the Civil Protection in Peacetime Act 1986 was intended to clarify and ease, but in recent years the emergency planning profession, and the LGA Public Protection Committee and Emergency Planning Panel, have lobbied for a new, unambiguous duty and power for local authorities to undertake civil emergency planning, and for a restoration of (or increase in) the level of funding for this work.

  Although Civil Defence Grant has been cut back and the number of emergency planning staff have been reduced, many authorities have "topped up" the funding provided by the Home Office Grant out of mainstream finance in order to be able to maintain a viable emergency planning service.

  A review of emergency planning is, therefore, long overdue. The LGA needs to undertake an urgent review, and will need to address the issue of future financing of the service. While it may have been understandable that central government provided a specific grant for local authority civil defence/nuclear war planning. LGA policy on local government finance would argue against the continuation of a specific grant for a new duty and/or power of civil emergency planning, and in favour of substantial additional government financial support being added to SSA, probably via the EPCS block (possibly offset in part by the discontinuation of Civil Defence Grant).

Key Points

  Need for review urgent, to cover duty/power, and financing.

  Need to ensure that any new duty/powers would cover not just emergency planning but response and recovery phase too.

Review of Bellwin Scheme—Background

  There is strong pressure from local authorities for a thorough going review of the scheme.

  The Government moved quickly to change the grant rate from 85 per cent to 100 per cent, and to ensure speedy settlement of claims, arising from the recent floods, but the real problems with Bellwin are:

    —  the threshold, which makes it difficult for large geographical areas (particularly big counties) to reach the threshold of 0.2 per cent of the council's annual budget (for many counties, they must spend £1.5 million to £2 million before they even hit the threshold); and

    —  what is excluded from allowable expenditure, particularly anything which can be insured against, and capital expenditure.

Key Points

  Strong reaction from local authorities that full review is needed.

  Bellwin Scheme predicated on assumption that major emergencies are very rare events—needs reviewing if (at least in some areas) they become much more frequent.

Review of Flood Defence Funding—Background

  The future division of responsibility between MAFF, the Environment Agency and local authorities for flood defence, and its funding are the most important issues over the long term which require review.

  Flood defence is a highly complex area, with multiple responsibilities:

    —  MAFF;

    —  Flood Defence Committees;

    —  Internal Drainage Boards;

    —  Local Authorities;

    —  Environment Agency (with both direct operational responsibilities and a "general supervisory duty");

    —  High level Targets (published November 1999);

    —  flood risk mapping; and

    —  flood warning systems.

  Two reviews are already underway:

    —  a Financial Management and Policy Review (FMPR) of the Environment Agency is just getting under way, which will look closely at the Agency's responsibility for flood defence, including its relationship with other agencies and local authorities;

    —  a review (Flood and Coastal Defence Funding Review) announced by Elliott Morley MP, Minister of State at MAFF, originally with a fairly long timescale (in part to allow the Local Government Finance Green Paper to have been considered first): the LGA is waiting to learn what involvement we will have in this review, and whether the time-scale is likely to be affected by the DPM's new initiative.

  The LGA and the Environment Agency have already established a joint Flood Defence Member Group (Chaired by Councillor Derek Bateman), which will be meeting on Thursday 30 November 2000, and will be considering a paper produced by the Agency on flood defence funding. Any relevant outcomes for this meeting will be reported orally to members before the CLP meeting.

Key Points

  Need to avoid overlap and confusion between different reviews: will the MAFF/Elliott Morley review already announced/underway continue (at faster pace?) and be the main vehicle for reviewing responsibilities and financing for flood defence?

Planning and Flood Plains—Background

  The issue of Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) allowing development on known food plains was given considerable prominence in discussions about the recent floods, with some criticism of both LPAs and the Environment Agency (for inadequate flood plain maps, and for not being prepared to support LPAs at planning appeals against refusal of planning permission).

  The LGA has provided extensive comments in reply to DETR's consultation draft of the Planning Policy Guidance Note on Flood Planning, Issues (PPG 25), which is due for final publication shortly. It is likely that the draft will be strengthened in the light of the recent floods and criticisms, probably in the direction of a "sequential test" similar to that found in PPG 6 on location of retail development, and PPG 3 on affordable housing. This test would require LPAs to satisfy themselves that any development proposals in flood plain met a series of graduated rigorous criteria based on relative risks (loss of life, damage to property, downstream effects etc). The LGA's view of the current draft in that it is sensible and balanced in its approach, and leaves the final decision to the LPA following advice from the Environment Agency.

  It is important to stress that of the enormous number of planning applications each year on which the Agency comments (c 100,000 in total), LPAs only gave permission against the clear advice of the Agency in respect of flood risk on some 200 occasions in 1999. LPAs have the right to make a balanced judgement, in light of all the relevant material considerations, and having regard to the likely seriousness of the consequences of any flooding given the nature of the buildings concerned.

  It is also important to keep the level of flooding in perspective, and recognise that many flood defence schemes have been effective, despite the wettest autumn since records began in 1776. The Environment Agency has calculated that the number of properties which have experienced flooding is about 6,600 out of two million properties in flood risk areas.

  LPAs are, of course, dependent on the Agency for the production of flood plan maps. Until now, as a rule of thumb, LPAs have regarded the one in 100 year risk of flooding as a sensible criterion for granting planning permission. If conditions have changed, such that one in 100 year risks become 1 in 25 or 1 in 10 year risks, flood plain maps will have to be revised, and the retention of a one in 100 year risk level would necessarily mean that much larger areas of land would be deemed inappropriate for more intensive development.

Key Points to make

  LPAs need to retain the right to balance all relevant considerations when deciding on whether planning permission should be granted for developments in the flood plain, but LGA accepts that criteria will need to be strengthened, through the revised PPG 25.

  Environment Agency needs to be resourced to investigate flood plain risks in light of emerging evidence, and to amend flood plan maps as appropriate, and continue to keep them up to date.

  LGA supports the principle of including flood risk information in local searches, but great care will need to be taken to avoid unnecessary planning (and insurance) blight.

  LGA supports the principle that developers should contribute towards the cost of flood defences required as a result of their development, whilst recognising that a significant cost may still have to fall on the public purse in respect of the wider benefit gained from the defences.

previous page contents

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 23 March 2001