Amazingly, we’ve got yet another challenge to contend with when we build, but this time it’s long overdue.
That is, ensuring that developments in floodplains can survive the sort of floods that devastated 60,000 homes and businesses this time last year.
Two reports published this week – one that the government commissioned from Sir Michael Pitt and the other from the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), an organisation whose expertise Pitt drew on heavily – have produced an eminently sensible set of proposals to ensure flood-proofing is at the front of developers’ minds. For example, the 2010 overhaul of the Building Regulations could make homes more resilient to flooding with measures that housebuilders can accommodate without too much extra cost. Pitt says the regulations should apply to home refurbishments, too – as we know, most people who have been flooded don’t make their homes more resilient afterwards, so that’s another good recommendation.
One key step would be to remove the right to connect to existing drainage systems, which would force developers to consider using sustainable urban drainage in their projects – that is, ponds and permeable paving that retain water rather than shedding it into drains (which is what happened at Hull).
The government has already given the Environment Agency overall responsibility for flood-risk strategy, and has made councils manage the risk from run-off. The ICE would argue the lack of measures for tackling coastal flooding – probably the biggest risk the UK faces in the long term – is a terrible oversight and before long the government will have to invest large sums of cash here. On the whole, though, it feels like coherent action is on the way.
Everything depends on the councils. It is their planners, building control inspectors and drainage experts who will staff the new regime
But everything depends on the councils. It is their planners, building control inspectors and drainage experts who will staff the new regime. That’s a lot of extra expertise needed, and it has to be funded from somewhere. The last thing developers need – particularly at this time – is more bottlenecks in the system.
London belongs to us
Last Saturday, Exhibition Road in South Kensington closed to traffic, and architecture aficionados, popular music buffs, chirpy children and bewildered passers-by thronged through it by the thousands. This was the launch of the month-long London Festival of Architecture, and it lived up to its name with verve. Artful temporary pavilions purpose-designed for the occasion by
Foster + Partners (in raspberry pink) and Tonkin Liu (in banana yellow) mingled with street bands, all of them performing simultaneously. So, congratulations to Peter Murray, who has done more than anyone to find a way for the public to engage joyfully with the city around them.