Ministers from our Department engage regularly with those from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on flood risk. That includes the publication of our joint “Review of policy for development in areas at flood risk”, which looked at that very issue, and the updating of the flood risk policies in the national planning policy framework in 2021.
Much of the flooding in villages across Rushcliffe has been linked to new developments built without increasing local sewerage and drainage capacity. How does my right hon. Friend think we can best address that problem through the planning system, to ensure not only that water companies are forced to take new development into account when assessing their infrastructure, but that developers are forced to pay their fair share? If we do not get this right, it will be all our constituents who continue to suffer.
My hon. Friend is right, and she is a superb advocate for her constituents, having already raised a number of issues with me since I have been in this post. The national planning policy framework is clear that local plans and planning decisions should consider flood risk from all sources, including overwhelmed sewers and drainage systems. Water and sewage companies are statutory consultees for local plans that set out an area’s development requirements, and can comment on planning applications. However, she is right that the right infrastructure must be put in place for the developments we see in our country.
Flooding is undoubtedly an important issue to be taken into account in the planning process, but there are other issues, one of which is the gender bias that exists in planning. I will be presenting a Bill tomorrow to attack that very thing. Are the Government considering as part of the planning in the levelling-up process how to ensure that gender neutrality is at the heart of major development designing?
There will be a lot of announcements to come in the near future about our plans for planning, but the hon. Lady is right to talk about that whole aspect of it. My hon. Friend the Minister for Levelling Up Communities, the hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Kemi Badenoch) has just assured me that all equality issues are looked at in this area.
We have the same problems in North East Hertfordshire, with towns such as Watton-at-Stone having flooding problems because of many new houses, inadequate storm drains and not enough balancing ponds. Will my right hon. Friend redouble his efforts in talking to DEFRA to ensure that we get better storm drainage for the future?
My right hon. and learned Friend is right to raise that important issue. As we prepare all developments to ensure that they are tackling climate change, we should also look at the points he raises. I commit to him that I will speak on a regular basis with my colleagues in DEFRA.