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Volume 406: debated on Monday 9 June 2003

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To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what representations his Department has received concerning the dangers of house building on flood plains. [117488]

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and its predecessors have regularly received representations on various aspects of the risks of all types of inappropriate development, including house building, in areas at risk from river and coastal flooding. These risks have for many years been reflected in planning guidance to local authorities, most recently in Planning Policy Guidance Note 25, "Development and Flood Risk", published in July 2001. This updated, strengthened and replaced the previous guidance in Department of the Environment Circular 30/92. In particular, it introduced a risk-based approach that matches types of development to levels of risk.It makes clear that residential development is not appropriate in the functional flood plain, where excess water must flow in times of flood. In less high-risk areas that are already developed, further residential building may be possible, but only after a flood risk assessment appropriate to the scale and nature of the development has been carried out.

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many new houses have been granted planning permission on areas deemed at (a) low, (b) medium and (c) high risk of flooding for each year since 1997. [117489]

I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by the then Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Ms Keeble) on 7 May 2002, Official Report, column 25W, in respect of the years before 2001–02. While information in not collected in the form requested, the operation of the policies on development in flood risk areas in PPG25, "Development and Flood Risk", is monitored by the Environment Agency through its high level target 12, which it reports to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and to the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs. The latest report, for 2001–02, shows that around 800 dwellings in England—less than 0.5 per cent. of the total—were subject to sustained objections by the Environment Agency on grounds of flood risk, but permitted after consideration by the local authorities concerned. Since about 10 per cent. of the land area and population of England is within the area of the Agency's indicative flood plain maps, this shows that local authorities are already giving serious consideration to flood risk in permitting new housing developments.