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Planning Permission: Floods

Volume 474: debated on Thursday 3 April 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) how many times she has called in a planning authority's decision to proceed with a development in a case where the Environment Agency objected to the development because of flood risk since April 2007; (197755)

(2) for what reasons she permitted developments to proceed in each of the cases referred to in the Environment Agency’s Annual Report 2006-07 where the Agency objected to the developments on grounds of flood risk;

(3) for those cases where a development took place against an Environment Agency objection on grounds of flood risk between April 2006 and March 2007 if she will publish (a) the Environment Agency objection and (b) the final decision of the planning authority; and what further steps may be taken in such cases to encourage the planning authority to take greater account of the Agency’s objection.

The Secretary of State has called in four planning applications under the Town and Country Planning (Flooding) (England) Direction 2007, (“the Direction”). This requires local planning authorities to send details of all applications for major development they are minded to approve where the Environment Agency has an objection, to the Secretary of State to consider whether or not they should be called-in for decision. Since 2007, the Secretary of State has called-in a further four planning applications, not under the Direction, where flooding was a main issue.

The 13 cases referred to in the Environment Agency’s HLT5 Report 2006-07, were granted planning permission by the respective local planning authorities before the Direction came into force. The Environment Agency’s objections to those applications are tabled as follows.

The Direction requires that where a local planning authority wants to grant planning permission for a major development to which the Environment Agency objects, the authority and the Agency must discuss and agree a course of action which would allow the Agency’s objection to be withdrawn. Such discussions are proving fruitful in resolving flood risk issues, and have allowed most of the planning applications referred to the Secretary of State, to be returned to the local planning authorities for decision.

Details of the high level target 5 (HLT5) 2006-07: 13 major development proposals granted planning permission contrary to Environment Agency concerns

Local planning authority

Nature of development

Flood zone

Reason for Environment Agency objection

North Lincolnshire Council

Barton upon Humber. Proposed tipping of cement kiln dust and inert factory waste above existing approved levels.

3

The proposal involved significant land raising within the floodplain. Environment Agency objected as no Flood Risk Assessment (FRA) had been submitted, and was concerned about possible increased flood risk to third parties. Extensive consultation with the LPA, but LPA knowingly overruled Environment Agency advice on the grounds that the proposal would have other environmental improvements.

West Lindsey District Council

Gainsborough. Erection of 38 residential units.

3

The Environment Agency objected to the application on grounds that the site is within Flood Zone 3 ‘high risk’ and no Flood Risk Assessment had been submitted with the application. A FRA was subsequently submitted; however the Environment Agency maintained its earlier objection on the grounds that the FRA had not considered the flood risk posed by a breach in the banks of the nearby River Trent. However, the Environment Agency did not object to the allocation of the site in the (now adopted) Local Plan, and the site benefits from an extant planning permission. The LPA considered it unreasonable to refuse the application, given the earlier approval and the Local Plan status.

East Lindsey District Council

Mablethorpe. Proposed development of 10 single storey dwellings (bungalows).

3

The Environment Agency objected on the basis that the site is located within Flood Zone 3 ‘high risk’, and the LPA’s own adopted catchment-wide flood risk assessment showed the site could flood to depths between 1-1.5 m in the event of a breach in the raised sea defences. The Environment Agency therefore considered the site inappropriate for single storey development. Site already has an extant planning permission for a similar proposal before the LPA’s own flood risk assessment had been prepared. Despite the flood risk, the LPA considered it unreasonable to refuse the new application, given the earlier approval.

East Lindsey District Council

Chapel St. Leonards. Erection of 18 dwellings, estate roads and vehicular/pedestrian access.

3

The Environment Agency objected on that basis that the site is located within Flood Zone 3 ‘high risk’, and the LPA’s own adopted catchment-wide flood risk assessment showed that the site could flood to depths greater than 2 m in the event of a breach in the raised sea defences. The assessment identifies the site as being within the ‘critical velocity zone’—the highest subdivision of risk as set out in the assessment. Given the predicted speed/depths of floodwater and the risk to life and property, the Environment Agency advised the LPA that residential development was generally not suitable in this area and objected. However, the site had an extant planning permission dating back to 1994, prior to the consideration of flood risk, and the LPA granted planning permission on the basis that this application represented a betterment in flood risk terms compared with that 1994 permission.

East Lindsey District Council

Chapel St. Leonards. Change of use of agricultural land to 71 pitch touring caravan site.

3

The Environment Agency objected on the basis that the site is located within Flood Zone 3 ‘high risk’, and the LPA’s own adopted catchment-wide flood risk assessment showed that the site could flood to depths of between 1 and 2 m in the event of a breach in the raised sea defences. The assessment identifies the site as being within the ‘Rapid Inundation Zone’—where flood waters are greater than 0.5 m and/or have a velocity of greater than 1 m/second. Given the predicted speed/depths of floodwater and the risk to life and property, the Environment Agency advised the LPA that it could not support an application for a new caravan site in such flood depth zones, and objected. The LPA accepted the dangers, but overruled the objection on the grounds of overriding tourism and economic benefits.

Plymouth City Council

Plymouth. Temporary permission for the provision of motor cycle speedway track and ancillary accommodation and facilities.

3

The Environment Agency objected as the site lies within Flood Zone 3 ‘High Risk’, and yet no Flood Risk Assessment was submitted with the planning application as required by Government guidance PPG25. The LPA approved the application without re-consulting the Environment Agency, as a proposal on the same site had been upheld at appeal in 1998, when an Inspector found that ‘no demonstrable harm’ would result from that development, although in that case the site was to have been raised (hence appropriately defended). This appeal decision predates Government policy on development and flood risk, and the need for FRAs. A permanent permission application has subsequently been submitted and approved. A FRA was submitted with this application allowing the Environment Agency to remove its objection.

Mid Suffolk District Council

Stowmarket. Construction of a new access road incorporating new junction arrangements and bridge with ancillary works.

3

The Environment Agency objected as development might lead to a loss of flood storage capacity, and the Flood Risk Assessment submitted was unsatisfactory as it was for a different site to the actual proposal. From the information submitted it was not clear whether the bridge proposal would impede flood flows by encroaching into FZ3. Although the Environment Agency responded late to this consultation, our response was in time to influence the decision. Delegated decision, so our concerns were not reported to committee.

Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council

Doncaster. Factory/warehouse extension.

2/3

The application site fell partly within flood zones 2 and 3. Although the LPA received a Flood Risk Assessment from the developers to accompany the planning application, the Environment Agency never received this. The Environment Agency therefore objected on the grounds that no FRA had been prepared to accompany the application, in accordance with PPG25. Our objection was not reported upon in processing the planning application. As a result, the fact that the FRA had never been received was not picked up, and the Environment Agency’s objection was never recorded.

Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

West Bromwich. Two new distribution/industrial units with associated service yards and car parking.

1

The objection relates only to surface water run off risk, not development in a high risk flood zone. Due to the size of this application (> 2 Ha), the Environment Agency objected on the ground that no Flood Risk Assessment had been submitted, and the surface water runoff could increase the flood risk to others. The LPA consulted the Environment Agency late, and our response was never reported to committee as the application was determined before it was received. A condition was attached to the planning permission requiring a FRA to be carried out retrospectively before the development commences.

Stafford Borough Council

Stafford. Development of an automotive complex.

1

The objection relates only to surface water run off risk, not development in a high risk flood zone. The application site lay within a longstanding employment site under development at the time of the application. Due to the size of this application (> 4 Ha), the Environment Agency objected on the ground that no Flood Risk Assessment had been submitted, as required under PPG25, and the surface water runoff could increase the flood risk to others. Environment Agency concerns were reported to committee, and the committee report acknowledges that the application should be decided in accordance with latest Government policy on flood risk and development. The committee however approved the application.

London Borough of Barnet

Barnet. Outline application for 23 houses and 78 flats.

1

The objection relates only to surface water run off, not development in a high risk flood zone. The Environment Agency objected on the ground that due to its size, the application might present a significant flood risk to others from the generation of surface water run-off, and therefore required a Flood Risk Assessment, as per Government guidance. The LPA approved the proposal without requesting a FRA from the developer, or re-consulting the Environment Agency. The LPA included a condition on the planning permission requiring the developer to retrospectively carry out a FRA before development commences.

Swindon Borough Council

Swindon. Redevelopment of former railway works for hotel, offices, retail, 211 apartments and ancillary uses.

1

Although this site lies within flood zone 1, due to the size of the site (3.4 Ha) and the nature of the development proposal, the Environment Agency was concerned that the application might present a significant flood risk to others from the generation of surface water run-off. The applicant was required therefore to provide a Flood Risk Assessment to accompany the application, as per Government guidance. Initially the Environment Agency requested further information about whether a FRA had been carried out, and requested an extension to the consultation period. There is no record of any extension being agreed, and the Environment Agency finally submitted a late response (June 2006) objecting to the proposal on the ground that no FRA had been submitted. The LPA did not approve the proposal until February 2007. Environment Agency concerns were not reported to committee.

West Berkshire District Council

Hungerford. Erection of 36 residential units with associated car parking.

1

An Outline Planning Permission was granted in 2005 for 16 dwellings, which the Environment Agency provided comments on in 2002. As the site lies within Flood Zone 1 the Environment Agency requested a surface water condition, which was applied to the extant permission. A subsequent planning application was submitted for 36 residential units in 2006. Although the applicant provided a Flood Risk Assessment in accordance with Government guidance, the Environment Agency objected as it was not satisfied with the surface water drainage strategy submitted as part of the FRA. The development could present a flood risk to others by generating surface water run-off. The Environment Agency’s objection was reported to the Planning Committee in August 2006. The objection was not resolved before planning permission was granted. The Council applied a condition requiring full details of the surface water drainage system to be submitted before development commenced on the site. Despite ongoing negotiations the proposed surface water drainage system still does not meet Environment Agency requirements.