Over half of local planning authorities don't inspect new homes for compliance with flood protections

The majority of planning authorities said they lack the resources to conduct in-person checks.

Over half of England’s local planning authorities “never” or “rarely” check new developments for compliance with flood risk planning conditions, an Environment Agency (EA) survey has revealed.

The majority (88%) of local planning authorities said they were unable to perform physical inspections due a lack of resources, instead relying largely on complaints before attending.

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Flooding is set to increase across the country due to climate change.Flooding is set to increase across the country due to climate change.
Flooding is set to increase across the country due to climate change.

At a glance: 5 key points

-As part of their review of policy for development in areas at flood risk, the EA surveyed local planning authorities across England to find out whether current policy is working adequately to protect homes from flooding.

-Over half of the local authorities surveyed said they “rarely” or “never” inspected new developments to check they complied with flood risk planning conditions, with 88% citing a lack of resources as the reason why.

-The majority (73%) said they relied on complaints to initiate a check for compliance.

-Almost a quarter of complaints received by local authorities regarding non-compliance related to drainage not being installed. The review’s authors called this revelation “concerning”.

-The review also found that while 97% of planning decisions for residential properties were made in line with EA advice in 2019-20, 866 homes were granted permission contrary to it.

What’s been said

An Environment Agency spokesperson said: “The Environment Agency is a statutory consultee on planning matters, providing advice on flood risk and environmental issues for local planning authorities to make decisions on proposed development.

“In the vast majority of cases our flood risk advice is followed by local planning authorities, with more than 97% of new homes proposed in planning applications complying with our advice in 2019/20.”

Cllr Darren Rodwell, Environment spokesperson for the Local Government Association said: “Councils are going the extra mile to prepare and protect their communities from flooding, and helping them recover. This includes shoring up flood defences to protect homes and businesses, clearing drains and gullies, fixing damaged infrastructure such as roads and bridges and training community flood wardens.

“Councils will always seek to minimise the dangers of flooding to properties, and, where the Environment Agency have been consulted, 97 per cent of cases are in line with their advice. Where building does take place in an area where there is a risk, councils need to be reassured that adequate flood defences are in place so that the dangers of flooding and damage to properties are minimised.

“At a time in which many council services are stretched, they need the necessary resources to upskill or hire new planning officers to undertake these important checks as well as responding to the challenges presented by the Government’s Planning Bill.”

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In response to increased flooding due to climate change, the government has promised a record £5.2bn for reducing flooding in England over the next six years.

Ministers have also announced tighter guidance on building homes in flood prone areas, while a government-backed insurance scheme is being changed to allow homeowners to be paid for protecting their homes.