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Volume 603: debated on Monday 14 December 2015

10. What steps he is taking to ensure that new developments do not affect the risk of flooding to existing properties. (902672)

There are strict tests in national planning policy to protect people and property from flooding, which all councils are expected to follow. They include ensuring that new development does not increase flood risk elsewhere.

In my experience, the Environment Agency often does not object to a planning application even when the area on which building is proposed floods, and especially when other areas could be caused to flood by the development in question. Will the Secretary of State look into the agency’s policies and practice in this regard?

I will certainly do that. I recognise my hon. Friend’s constituency experience, and, indeed, his expertise as vice-chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on flood prevention. However, the national planning policy framework states that any new application in an area of flooding risk

“must demonstrate that the development will be safe for its lifetime…without increasing flood risk elsewhere, and, where possible, will reduce flood risk overall.”

That test must be passed for the development to be permitted.

Is it not time to recognise the fantastic work that firefighters do in dealing with floods, and to make it a statutory duty for fire and rescue services to respond to flooding?

I am grateful for the opportunity that the hon. Gentleman offers me to pay tribute again to the fantastic work that is being done in the north of England, and which has, over the years, been done throughout the country at times when such emergencies occur. I will bear in mind what he has said, and it will be considered during our future discussions.

Loyn bridge, in Gressingham—which is in my constituency —has been partly washed away, and the roads on either side of it have caved in because of the flooding. Will my right hon. Friend assure me that everything will be done to ensure that the repairs are completed as quickly as possible, as the bridge is the main thoroughfare across the Lune valley?

I will indeed. I note the leadership that my hon. Friend has shown in, and with, his community in responding to those conditions. We are determined to ensure that things are put right with the greatest dispatch, and we are working closely with the authorities throughout the area. The funds that have been made available so far will allow an assessment of what is required for restoration to be made, which will be followed by the repairs themselves.

Does the Secretary of State think it is right that the Government are helping new people buy their own home under the Help to Buy scheme, but those very same people will not be eligible for flood insurance under Flood Re, which his Government are introducing in April?

The negotiation with the insurance companies has been very clear: we want to make sure that everyone in the country can benefit from the insurance that gives them peace of mind when they buy a new property.