Housing secretary Michael Gove should reset planning policy to ban developers from building thousands of new homes in high-risk flood areas, the think-tank Localis has argued.
In a report published today entitled ‘Plain Dealing – building for flood resilience ’ the place experts set out how deepening climate change pressures and rising housing demand have resulted in an increase in flooding on properties in at-risk areas.
In original research undertaken for the report, Localis discovered that almost 200 planning permissions have been granted on floodplain land so far this year for some 5,283 new homes in the highest-risk local authorities in the country, the overwhelming majority some 4,255 in areas pre-identified as highly likely to flood.
Among its key recommendations, Localis calls for government commitment to empowering communities to manage flood risk locally in a ‘resilient’ way that allows them to pursue their local ecological, economic and social goals. In this context, resilience means flood strategies that focus on living with floods instead of just preventing them and involve a flexible approach to flooding and a rapid recovery from inundation.
Other report recommendations for policy and regulatory changes include suggestions to make developers liable for the sustainability and insurability of any new developments built in floodplain areas and support effective collaboration between the public, private and civil society with the aim of reinvigorating and re-incentivising flood insurance schemes and partnerships – for example comprehensive risk management in at-risk urban regeneration zones.
Jonathan Werran, Localis chief executive, said: “There is a clear need to reset government policy and regulation to prevent an otherwise unavoidable 50% uptick in the numbers of houses being built on floodplains over the next half-century.
“At the same time, with climate change another unavoidable reality, we need to strengthen communities to become resilient in adapting to, living with and responding to flood pressures.”
Grace Newcombe, Localis lead clean growth researcher, said: “We know that climate change is intensifying, flooding is increasing, and housing pressures are rising. Floodplain development necessarily sits at the intersection of these demands but it must not come at the expense of individual and community safety.
“Clearly defined flood resilience objectives from the national Government aligned with whole-system collaboration is needed to protect homes and businesses and stimulate building back better. Failing to do this and continuing to build new homes in floodplain areas without resilience measures is a planned catastrophe.”
Martin Milliner, Claims Director at LV= General Insurance, adds: “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. With those involved in the planning process ignoring the current guidance, this runs the risk of putting an ever-increasing number of communities at risk.
He concludes: “Flooding is an extremely traumatic event which has a devasting impact on a person’s life, both physically and mentally. 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.”