Councils must now consult Environment Agency on developments in flood risk areas

Government guidance announced today gives local councils advice for how to manage flood risks through planning and development rules.

The guidance sets out five steps for using planning to avoid floods including prioritising non-flood areas first for any new developments.

Credit: gluemoon

It is now compulsory to consult with the Environment Agency on planning applications in flood risk areas, and where councils ignore advice on major developments the government will intervene.

To date the government has intervened in 24 cases following Environment Agency advice, with four called in, four under consideration and the rest returned to councils following improvement to flood protection measures.

Planning minister Caroline Flint said: "We saw very clearly last summer the devastating potential of severe storms. We can't prevent heavy downpours or abandon those already living in flood plains but wherever possible we need to make sure councils are avoiding or reducing the risk of flooding in their communities."

The guidelines have also won support from Mark Southgate, Environment Agency head of planning, who said: “We welcome the government's policy on planning and flood risk that seeks to steer new development away from high flood risk areas.”

The five steps listed within the guidance are:

  • Identify what the flood risks are including river/sea breaches, inadequate drainage and surface water run off or sewer problems;
  • Avoid risk by prioritising non-flood areas first for new development;
  • Critically assess whether the need for a new development outweighs flood risk, including following Environment Agency advice;
  • Control flooding using sustainable drainage and good design;
  • Ensure all new buildings that have to be in areas that might flood are resilient and safe.