Memorandum by East Sussex County Council
DRAFT PPG 25DEVELOPMENT AND FLOOD
This paper is based upon the response of East
Sussex County Council to the consultation draft of Planning Policy
Guidance Note 25: Development and Flood Risk. In East Sussex,
serious flooding has been experienced as the result of the recent
severe weather. Flooding of residential and business properties
was widely reported, particularly that in Lewes town on the River
Ouse, at Uckfield on the River Uck, (a tributary of the Ouse),
and at Robertsbridge on a tributary of and close to the River
Rother. However, the flooding also severely affected much wider
areas, with damaging effects on agriculture, rural properties,
businesses and infrastructure, such as roads and bridges. In the
light of this, some points in the paper have been expanded upon
or changed in emphasis.
The comments derive particularly from the perspective
of the County Council in its role as Planning Authority responsible
for strategic land use planning (the Structure Plan) and ensuring
conformity of District-wide local plans with the adopted Structure
DRAFT PPG 25
The County Council welcomes and supports the
publication of the draft PPG 25 and the principles upon which
it is based. The guidance provides greater clarity as to the role,
duties and powers of all those in the development process, and
in this context can be seen as an improvement upon advice found
in circular 30/92. As indicated at paragraph 8 of the consultation
draft, planning authorities in the South East are under pressure
to accommodate an increasing number of dwellings and associated
development and infrastructure. In practice a policy of risk avoidance
may not always be achievable and in this respect the publication
of guidance is seen as being timely.
Specifically, comments were requested by DETR
on the following topics:
is the guidance sufficiently clear
and practical on what is and what is not appropriate development
in flood risk areas?
the use of the risk based approach;
should three yearly reviews of guidance
take place to account for the improvements in the climate change
Also included are comments of a more general
nature. These can be summarised as being:
qualified support for the continued
role of the Environment Agency as an advisory body in the
a request for clarification on the
suggestion that the long term change of land uses may be appropriate
in some instances;
further guidance is sought on the
mechanisms by which a structure planning authority can establish
the strategic approach to flood risk and surface water drainage.
It is noted that the draft guidance does not
place a ban on development in flood risk areas but emphasises
a policy of avoidance where possible and management of risk elsewhere.
Advice from the Environment Agency is seen as the primary source
of information in determining flood risk at a local level and
in determining the appropriate weight in development control decisions.
Although it is understood that draft guidance should contain a
degree of flexibility to allow for local conditions, concern is
expressed that insufficient advice is provided in the event of
national or regional policy competing with flood risk issues.
Paragraph 37 implies that the government's policy on urban regeneration
and the use of previously developed land may need to be tempered
by the constraints set by flood risk. It should be made clear
that flood risk issues are to be placed on an equal footing with
other national and regional policy objectives.
Despite these concerns the draft guidance is
supported for not imposing a blanket ban on development in flood
risk areas. A restrictive approach would have an adverse effect
on the long term economic and social well being of towns located
in flood plains. However, attention needs to be focussed on managing
risk in these areas. The hazard of an increased incidence and
severity of flood events cannot be removed, but adapting to these
changing circumstances may be achieved by managing vulnerability
or exposure to the risk. Using the example of historic town centres,
a reduction in the exposure to risk (eg enhanced flood defences)
may appear to be an obvious approach, but considerations such
as townscape quality, environmental amenity and possible constraints
on successfully mitigating impacts elsewhere in the catchment
may limit this option. The management of vulnerability is touched
upon in the draft guidance under paragraph 29 (long-term changes
in land use) and Appendix F (risk based approach to development
and flood risk) but the Government's thinking on this subject
needs to be made explicit. Is it appropriate to plan for the long
term change in the composition of land uses in these centres?
If so, what other mechanisms, beyond the planning process, are
necessary to implement such an approach?
The Development Control Process
Past experience has demonstrated that the weight
attached to flood risk advice in development control decisions
in the UK has varied considerably. The concerns of the National
Rivers Authority and its successor the Environment Agency may
have, in some instances, not been given sufficient prominence
leading to poorly planned developments either at risk of flooding
or giving rise to flood risk elsewhere in the catchment. However,
recent experience in East Sussex indicates that the flooding has
been principally of properties built before planning controls
were in place or permitted in earlier decades when flood risk
advice was not such a prominent feature of the planning regime.
Conversely, in some instances the Environment Agency has been
unable or unwilling to defend its advice to Local Planning Authorities
Although the democratically accountable plan
led system is maintained, it is evident that the current arrangements
can lead to anomalous decisions. The debate surrounding this issue
has been polarised with proposals either enabling the Environment
Agency to veto development proposals or maintaining the status
quo. Both are unacceptable and a compromise needs to be struck
which, to a greater extent, maintains the integrity of the plan
led system whilst lending sufficient weight to the advice of the
Environment Agency. One possible method would be the ability of
the Environment Agency to notify the Secretary of State for the
Environment of applications that cause particular concern. This
would operate in a similar manner as the procedure available to
Sport England in protecting playing fields, giving the Secretary
of State an opportunity to call in an application if necessary.
Such an approach does have its problems, not least potential conflicts
with the requirements of the Human Rights Act, but clearly the
present system is flawed and requires obligations being placed
upon both planning authorities and the Environment Agency.
The Intensification of Residential Development
behind existing Defences (Coastal and Tidal)
The issue is noted at paragraphs 31 and 47 that
defences do not offer absolute protection and when overtopped
or breached the consequences can be more devastating than if the
defence had not been there in the first place. It is questioned
whether it is good practice to continue to allow the intensification
behind existing coastal defences when the process of climate change
is increasing the risk of extreme events occurring within shorter
Although guidance indicates that there are design
solutions that may reduce the impact on individuals, it should
be acknowledged that a significant threat can also be the difficulty
encountered by emergency services reaching flood victims following
The Cumulative Impact on Catchment Drainage (paragraphs
8 and 28)
The principle of applying a strategic approach
to flood risk management and surface water drainage is to be supported.
Amongst other benefits, it is seen as an opportunity to provide
guidance to local planning authorities on the cumulative impact
of individual development proposals within catchments. Although
guidance provides a list of the possible issues to be considered
in developing a strategic approach, scant regard is paid to how
this is to be achieved. Would this form part of the function of
the Regional Flood Defence Committees? If so, how compatible would
this be with the inclusive approach advocated in paragraphs 20
Scottish guidance in the form of NPPG 7 (Planning
and Flooding) recommends local authorities establish Flood Appraisal
Groups to inform the planning process. These groups have the benefit
of being informal and advisory thus allowing greater inclusion
or integration than current arrangements south of the border permit.
Guidance on this and other possible vehicles would be welcomed.
The proposal to review guidance in light of
improvements in our understanding of the implications of climate
change is supported in principle. However, would any of this work
be pre-empted by the commitment to provide planning authorities
with a best practice guide on climate change adaptation (proposed
in the Climate Change Draft UK Programme)?
The proposal to employ a more sophisticated
technique in analysing and quantifying risk is supported.
It is noted that the general thrust of the draft
guidance is broadly consistent with the recommendations made by
ERM's report on Potential Adaptation Strategies for Climate Change
commissioned by UKCIP.
Guidance should address the issue of permitted
development rights exercised in flood risk areas and the use of
Article 4 directions.
The Consideration of other Plans and Programmes
(paragraphs 20 and 26 Annex C)
The proposal that planning decisions and policies
should take greater account of non statutory plans and the long
term objectives of communities and other agencies is supported
in principle. However, further guidance is requested on how this
can be achieved (see above comments).
The Promotion of Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems
(paragraphs 37 and 38 Annex E)
The promotion of SUDS through local planning
policy (within supplementary planning guidance, development briefs
and local plans) is supported.
Director of Transport and Environment
6 December 2000
6 The erection of new dwellings and the adaptation
of existing structures ie domestic extensions or sub-divisions
of dwellings. Back