Environment Secretary, George Eustice, has said that local planning authorities will soon be forced to refer decisions to the Housing Secretary in instances where the Environment Agency has raised concerns. Fresh guidance is due to be issued that will force the referral, should objections be raised on environmental grounds.
It is hoped the moved will prevent developers from building even more homes and commercial properties on land at risk of flooding.
A review of planning decisions by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLD) and the Environment Agency recently found that more than 97% of planning decisions for local residential properties did follow Environment Agency advice in 2019/20. However, 866 homes were granted planning permission even though the Environment Agency had flagged potential flood risk to these properties.
Under the new proposals, the Housing Secretary will have stronger powers that will mean ‘inappropriate development’ can be prevented on land under threat of flooding.
Mr Eustice’s announcement warned of the threat of further extreme flooding as a result of climate change. He also referred to the flash floods seen in the UK, Europe, India and China this summer, where sudden torrential rain led to flooding.
The government plans to issue a range of measures that will better protect homes and infrastructure.
The provision of flood insurance for households will also be reviewed, as well as improvement to Flood Re, the scheme in which homes at risk of flooding are able to secure insurance cover. Home owners may be required to install flood defences in properties that have a history of being flooded, including flood doors and air brick covers, as well as flood-resistant pains. Such flood resilience measures should result in a reduction in premiums.
A new ‘surface water flood risk’ map will be published next year to provide more information for the 1.4 million properties and 3.3 million people most at risk from flooding.
Current flood alleviation and coastal defence schemes aim to protect over 310,000 properties in the UK, and save an estimated £32 billion from being spent on the effects of water damage.
The government announced last year that funding for coastal and flood defences would be doubled to £5.2 billion. The funding programme is planned to run until 2027 and £860 million will be invested in the first of the flood defences in 2021/22.
Some of the improvement to flood defences involve the creation of new wetlands, peatlands and woodlands. There are also projects to improve river walls and reduce the flow of water into rivers where flooding is a risk. Hard sea defences are also being planned.