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Developers should be banned from building on flood-prone areas

Words: Laura Edgar
Flooded homes / iStock-180808619

Housing and levelling-up secretary Michael Gove has been urged to ban developers from building homes in high-risk flood areas.

Think tank Localis argues that deepening climate crisis pressure combined with rising housing demand have resulted in an increase in properties being flooded in at-risk areas. 

Research for report Plain Dealing – Building for Flood Resilience found that 200 planning permissions in England have been granted in 2021, equating to 5,283 homes, in the local authority areas at the highest risk of flooding in England.

The report states that there are 4,255 planned in areas identified as highly likely to flood.

Planning, the report acknowledges, makes a "major contribution” to mitigating and adapting to climate change, through decision-making on location, scale, mix and character of development. “Planning reform must therefore have climate change at its core. Otherwise, we run the risk of developing a system that fuels, rather than tackles, the climate crisis.”

Localis recommends that the government empower communities to manage flood risk in a “resilient way that allows them to pursue their local ecological, economic and social goals”.

This means creating flood strategies that focus on living with floods instead of just preventing them. The approach should be flexible.

The think tank also recommends:

  • Making developers liable for the sustainability and insurability of new developments built on floodplains.
  • Support effective collaboration between the public, private and civil society with the aim of reinvigorating and reincentivising flood insurance schemes and partnerships. This could be comprehensive risk management in at-risk urban regeneration zones.

Grace Newcombe, lead clean growth researcher with Localis, said: “We know that climate change is intensifying, flooding is increasing, and housing pressures are rising. Floodplain development necessarily sits at the intersection of these demands but it must not come at the expense of individual and community safety.

“Clearly, defined flood resilience objectives from the national government aligned with whole-system collaboration is needed to protect homes and businesses and stimulate building back better. Failing to do this and continuing to build new homes in floodplain areas without resilience measures is a planned catastrophe.”

Localis chief executive Jonathan Werran said: “There is a clear need to reset government policy and regulation to prevent an otherwise unavoidable 50 per cent uptick in the numbers of houses being built on floodplains over the next half-century.

“At the same time, with climate change another unavoidable reality, we need to strengthen communities to become resilient in adapting to, living with, and responding to flood pressures.”

Plain Dealing – Building for Flood Resilience can be found on the Localis website (pdf).

Image credit | iStock