Maintenance of SuDS features is critical to sustaining their long term management of surface water flood risk to and from development (John Oldfield, Bedford Group of IDBs)
ADA has responded to the Government’s Planning White Paper on behalf of our flood and water management authority members in England.
The white paper proposes a series of reforms through which the government intends to streamline and modernise the planning process in England. It aims to improve outcomes on design and sustainability, reform developer contributions, and ensure more land is available for development where it is needed. Detractors have highlighted that the changes could result in less rigid standards, with worse quality of homes, and a loss of local control.
ADA has sought not to directly enter those arguments, but to ensure that flood risk management and sustainable drainage are a fundamental focus for development control in this country from the National Planning Policy Framework and Local Plans, through to individual planning permissions.
In short there should be no diminution of control on proposals to build in areas of flood risk. This requires a much greater focus on managing and mitigating the impact of surface water flooding, both within new development and through developers’ contributions to infrastructure.
Flood risk will undoubtedly be a growing pressure on housing and development as we face more prolonged and intense rainfall events owing to climate change. Data from the MHCLG shows that the number of new houses built on land in Flood Zone 3 with a 1% or greater chance of flooding in any year has risen from 9,500 in 2013 to 20,000 in 2017-18, following a peak of nearly 24,000 the previous year according to analysis by The Guardian newspaper.
Below summarises how ADA responded to some of the key points within the White Paper’s proposals.
ADA would welcome a consistent, streamlined approach to Local Plans, as well as making them more accessible and relevant to the local community with the proposal to introduce technological elements especially for feedback and mapping. ADA also agrees that a much greater emphasis should be placed on sustainable homes, especially in regard to mitigating flood risk.
Local Plans must ensure surface water flood risks are understood early in the process to avoid a scenario where sites are allocated on unsuitable sites. Furthermore, surface water management and sustainable drainage will need to be considered in relation to every development proposal, rather than simply as a zonal principle, in order to take account of local and site-specific circumstances.
The proposals, as drafted, appear to strengthen the case for now bringing into effect Schedule 3 of the Flood & Water Management Act 2020, or some equivalent mandatory arrangements, so that there is are distinct and focused arrangements in place to manage surface water flood risk from all new development.
ADA argued that a locality’s flood resilience, in the view of the local planning authority, the lead local flood authority and IDB (where relevant), should be an explicit part of the consolidated test of ‘sustainable development’.
Our concern is that national testing may omits certain flood risk criteria in order to make it easily functional for digital use, and as a consequence lack in nuance resulting in quite coarse judgements about the suitability for development.
ADA did not support the removal of a formal Duty to Cooperate, which requires local planning authorities to work with other local planning authorities and bodies outside their area. Effective water and flood risk management cannot be conducted within local authority administrative boundaries alone. It requires liaison and cooperation between local planning authorities to address flood risk management across catchments.
ADA was not supportive of automatic outline permission for areas for substantial development (Growth areas) and particularly concerned that any reformed Reserved Matters process ensures that all local flood Risk Management Authorities (RMAs) remain part of the planning process, regardless of whether they are statutory consultees. For example, there will remain a need for Lead Local Flood Authorities (LLFAs) to audit detailed design in relation to any design codes/development management policies covering flood risk. Similarly, engagement is needed to ensure that detailed designs comply with Land Drainage Act 1991 consents and byelaws issued by IDBs and LLFAs in relation to ordinary watercourses and structures.
ADA sought assurance that essential infrastructure to reduce flood risk must be included within the definition of ‘infrastructure’ used. Such infrastructure should be an explicit component of any new consolidated infrastructure levy and funding via the levy should be accessible to all Risk Management Authorities managing infrastructure impacted by a development. Specifically we highlighted the importance of developer contributions to smaller public infrastructure managers, such as IDBs, when mitigating the impact of development upon water management within drainage districts.
Thank you to all those IDBs, LLFAs and RFCCs who shared their own thoughts and comments with ADA, which helped us compile our response.