Development control in high flood-risk areas highlighted in Pitt final report on flooding

Tougher control on development in high flood-risk areas is back firmly on the agenda following publication of Sir Michael Pitt's final report into last summer’s floods. Environment Secretary, Hilary Benn said: 'I welcome Sir Michael’s report and the direction it sets. I will deliver a detailed response on behalf of Government that includes a prioritised action plan in the autumn. Before this, I am today taking action to help the country be better prepared to deal with the impacts of flooding. 

Details of the Pitt review are available online

'Earlier this year, said Mr Benn, 'I outlined that at least £34.5 million of the £2.15 billion total Government flood and coastal erosion spend over the next three years would be allocated to implement the final recommendations of Sir Michael Pitt’s report.

'I can announce that part of this funding will be used to take forward work in several key areas including: assisting the  development of surface water management plans in high priority areas, improving reservoir safety and an initial contribution to a major national floods exercise to ensure we are better prepared for the future.'

The report voiced strong backing for current planning policy set out in Planning Policy Statement 25, which says there should be a presumption against building in high flood-risk areas, taking into account all sources of flood risk.

And the report recommended that the effectiveness of planning policy should be kept under review 'including the Environment Agency's power to challenge development'.

The document, which has nearly 100 proposals, said that householders should no longer be able to lay impermeable surfaces as of right on front gardens and the Government should consult on extending this to back gardens and business premises.

Pitt's report has argued that the automatic right to connect surface water drainage of new developments to the sewerage system should be removed.

Also urged is a revision of the Building Regulations to ensure that all new or refurbished buildings in high flood-risk areas are 'flood-resistant or resilient'.

The report also reinforces the argument that developers should make 'a full contribution to the costs both of building and maintaining any necessary [flooding] defences'.

Where it is necessary to construct buildings in high-risk areas to meet wider aims of sustainable development, PPS25 requires developers to fund necessary flood defence and mitigation works.

Launching his final report, Sir Michael called for urgent and fundamental changes as the UK adapted to the increased risk of flooding. He made it clear that people buying property in flood risk areas should be made more aware of the potential of flooding.

Environment secretary Hilary Benn said the Government would deliver a detailed response including a prioritised action plan in the autumn.

In a related development the secretary of state has announced how initial funding promised to implement the Pitt Report will be allocated.
This will mean:
  • at least 5m GBP for the development of Surface Water Management Plans in the highest priority areas
  • at least 1m GBP to take forward mapping work to improve reservoir safety
  •  an initial 250,000 GBP to plan a major national floods exercise to test the new structures and roles put in place to ensure the country is better prepared to deal with future flooding events

The Government will also develop a Long Term Investment Strategy for flood defence with the Environment Agency.

Flood Recovery Minister John Healey said: 'We reacted quickly and effectively to last summer's floods, making up to 118m GBP available to flood-affected areas, to ensure local authorities received effective support to help those in the greatest need.

'Local communities, individuals, businesses and organisations showed immense resilience and fortitude in recovering from this event, and have made tremendous progress over the past year.

'But I fully recognise more remains to be done. The Government is in this for the long haul, and will continue to do everything possible to help ensure this momentum is maintained.'

In welcoming the report, Environment Agency Chief Executive Paul Leinster said the report had highlighted the need for further clarity on the responsibilities for flooding. 'Sir Michael’s report puts the spotlight back on the need for the country to be prepared and able to respond to the devastating impacts of flooding. He covers a wide range of topics – many directly related to our work – and all of which are essential to better protecting people and the environment from flooding into the future,' Leinster said.

The UK Resilience Website, a news and information service for emergency practitioners by the Civil Contingencies Secretariat at The Cabinet Office, contains details of flood procedures.