More than 5,000 new homes in areas at higher risk of flooding in England have been approved to be built in this year, according to a report.
Analysis of more than 16,000 planning applications between January and September 2021 was carried out ahead of Flood Action Week (November 22-26).
Researchers found that 200 planning permissions had been granted for 5,283 new homes in local authority areas where more than 10% of homes are already at significant risk of flooding.
The report was commissioned by LV= General Insurance (LV= GI), one of the biggest home insurers in the UK, working with independent think tank Localis.
They said a long-term holistic approach to flooding should be developed, with bodies working together – and warned that with an overwhelming need for new homes, England is likely to see many more properties built in areas at high risk of flooding.
Martin Milliner, claims director at LV= General Insurance, said: “Climate change will increase the UK’s exposure to weather-related hazards such as flooding, and it’s vital we prepare for this.
“Whilst we welcome the Government’s commitment to increase housing we have concerns about the UK’s resilience to future flood events, and in particular the number of new housing developments in flood risk areas that are still receiving approval.
“Flooding is an extremely traumatic event which has a devastating impact on a person’s life, both physically and mentally. This research highlights a concerning amount of current and future development in high flood risk areas.
“To tackle this, we need to come together and develop a holistic approach to flooding for the long term, with property developers, insurers and Government – both nationally and locally – tackling the issue of building on floodplains.”
Jonathan Werran, chief executive at Localis, said: “We need to strengthen communities to become resilient in adapting to, living with and responding to flood pressures.”
Andrew Whitaker, planning director at the Home Builders Federation (HBF), said: “We face an acute housing crisis and so the Government is, quite rightly, looking to increase housing supply to address the increasing social implications of the shortage.
“Planning policy already directs development away from those areas most liable to flooding. However, where there is no other choice, or sites in high flood risk zones are the most sustainable sites for other reasons, developments have to meet extremely stringent mitigation requirements set out by the Environment Agency who are statutory consultees on plans for homes in such areas.
“Mitigation measures have to account for both the site and the surrounding area. Local authorities are responsible for allocating sites to meet their local housing needs and do so through the Local Plan process at which all issues including flood risk are taken into account.
“Ultimately local authorities are responsible for where housing development takes place in their areas – and for agreeing the mitigation and resilience measures required.
“Over recent years developers have paid water companies a staggering £3 billion to ensure their networks have the capacity to deal with the provision of much needed new housing. They have a responsibility to ensure this money is spent on improvising infrastructure for new and existing residents.”
Cllr David Renard, Local Government Association (LGA) housing and environment spokesperson, said: “Flooding can devastate communities, causing enormous disruption to families and businesses, and resulting in clean-up bills costing huge sums of money.
“Councils reject planning applications which are reckless and irresponsible, and are generally opposed to building property where there is a risk of flooding.
“In the last five years, almost 99% of homes included in planning applications were decided in line with Environment Agency flood risk advice.
“Where building does take place on an area where there is a risk, councils need to be reassured that adequate defences are in place, so that the dangers of flooding and damage to properties are minimised.
“To support protection work by councils to prepare for heavy rainfalls, funding for flood defences needs to be devolved to local areas to ensure money is directed towards projects that best reflect local needs, which includes protecting key roads and bridges to keep local residents and businesses moving.
“The Government also needs to further incentivise firms to make contributions for flood defences and introduce mandatory anti-flood requirements for new homes in building regulations.”
A Government spokesperson said: “Our national planning policy is clear that floodplain development should be avoided wherever possible, and protections must be put in place when building in these areas is necessary – we expect local planning authorities to follow this guidance.
“We’re providing record investment of over £5.2 billion for flood and coastal defences in England to create around 2,000 new defence schemes, improving protections for over 336,000 properties.”