Thousands of new homes to be built in areas at high risk of flooding

Research suggests guidance to avoid floodplains not always followed by councils

Tim Wyatt
Monday 22 November 2021 14:10
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<p>Councils insist when they do approve homes in flood risk areas, they always require developers to also build defences</p>

Councils insist when they do approve homes in flood risk areas, they always require developers to also build defences

More than 5,000 new homes have been given planning permission this year despite being situated in areas already particularly prone to flooding.

New research ahead of the Environment Agency’s Flood Action Week, which began on Monday, looked at 16,000 planning applications from January to September.

Analysis showed 200 permissions, encompassing developments which will total 5,283 homes, have been granted in local authorities where already more than one in 10 homes are at significant risk of flooding.

The report was commissioned by LV General Insurance (LVGI), one of the biggest home insurers in the UK, working with independent think tank Localis.

They said a long-term holistic approach to flooding should be developed, with bodies working together – and warned that with an overwhelming need for new homes England was likely to see many more properties built in areas at high risk of flooding.

Martin Milliner, claims director at LVGI, said: "Climate change will increase the UK’s exposure to weather-related hazards such as flooding, and it’s vital we prepare for this.

"Whilst we welcome the government’s commitment to increase housing we have concerns about the UK’s resilience to future flood events, and in particular the number of new housing developments in flood risk areas that are still receiving approval.

“This research highlights a concerning amount of current and future development in high flood risk areas.

"To tackle this, we need to come together and develop a holistic approach to flooding for the long term, with property developers, insurers and government – both nationally and locally – tackling the issue of building on floodplains."

Andrew Whitaker, planning director at the Home Builders Federation, said it was right the government was trying to ramp up housebuilding given the housing crisis and said planning rules already pushed more development away from floodplains.

“However, where there is no other choice, or sites in high flood risk zones are the most sustainable sites for other reasons, developments have to meet extremely stringent mitigation requirements set out by the Environment Agency who are statutory consultees on plans for homes in such areas,” he said.

Chris Renard, housing spokesperson at the Local Government Association, said councils would always reject planning applications which were “reckless and irresponsible” and are “generally opposed to building property where there is a risk of flooding”.

However, he conceded about one in hundred planning applications in the past five years were not decided in line with the Environment Agency’s flood risk advice.

When approving homes which are at risk of flooding, councils should require adequate defences also be built by the developer, Mr Renard said, adding the government should also introduce “mandatory anti-flood requirements for new homes in building regulations”.

A government spokesperson said: "Our national planning policy is clear that floodplain development should be avoided wherever possible, and protections must be put in place when building in these areas is necessary - we expect local planning authorities to follow this guidance.

"We’re providing record investment of over £5.2 billion for flood and coastal defences in England to create around 2,000 new defence schemes, improving protections for over 336,000 properties."

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