Draft revised NPPF, March 2018 – Flood Risk in Planning

Draft revised NPPF, March 2018 – Flood Risk in Planning

The 5th March 2018 saw the consultation period open on the long-awaited draft revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) from the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government.

The draft revised National Planning Policy Framework incorporates policy proposals previously consulted on in the Housing White Paper and the Planning for the “right homes in the right places” consultation.

If you would like to find out more about how NPPF affects you, Flood Risk Assessment or SuDS then Call 01293 214444, or email enquires@unda.co.uk

Unda have reviewed the key themes of the draft revised National Planning Policy Framework from a flood risk and planning perspective, in relation to the current March 2012 NPPF:

1. Cumulative impacts of flood risk:

The draft framework 2018 states that to meet the challenge of climate change, flooding and coastal change, plans should have regard to the cumulative impacts of flood risk, rather than just looking at the flood risk impact of individual development sites.

What could these changes mean?

This could take the form of stricter controls on minor extensions due to the potential cumulative impacts on for example fluvial flood storage or on surface water. It could also mean stricter requirements on the management of surface water, because of the potential cumulative impact of multiple small scale developments located in a small area within an urban catchment.

Additionally, under current NPPF Guidance the capacity of local sewer networks is not a material planning consideration. As a result, years of cumulative development has occurred without sewer capacity improvements increasing pressure on already outdated utility networks. The draft revision implies that local sewer capacity checks may become a material consideration in the planning process with waste utility companies forming part of the regulatory consultee on all future planning applications.

2. Exception Test:

Sites that have been allocated in the development plans have already applied the Sequential Test, however the Exception test (informed by site specific Flood Risk Assessment) may need to be re-applied (depending on the nature and extent of flood risk, and the time passed since the initial assessment was carried out).

For the exception test to be passed it must be demonstrated that:

a) the development would provide wider sustainability benefits to the community that outweigh the flood risk; and

b) the development will be safe for its lifetime taking account of the vulnerability of its users, without increasing flood risk elsewhere, and, where possible, will reduce flood risk overall.

What could these changes mean?

When sites that have already been allocated by the Local Planning Authority come forward for development, the planning applications may still have to provide a Flood Risk Assessment and pass the Exception Test.

A rationale for this change could be in light of the updated Environment Agency Climate Change Allowances, published in February 2016; where the Environment Agency increased Climate Change Allowances by 20% – 105% for all areas within England.

Many of the Local Authority’s Strategic Flood Risk Assessment’s (a document created to support a Local Plan which considers whether areas are appropriate for development on flood risk grounds) were completed prior to the release of the updated climate change allowances.  Consequently, there is the potential that sites designated within Local Authority’s Local Plans, which previously passed on flood risk grounds, may no longer be considered suitable under the new regime.

3. Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) and safe access and escape through emergency planning:

Development within areas at risk of flooding (which have passed the Sequential and Exception Tests) should only be allowed where it can be demonstrated that:

a) within the site, the most vulnerable development is located in areas of lowest flood risk, unless there are overriding reasons to prefer a different location;

b) the development is appropriately flood resilient and resistant;

c) it incorporates sustainable drainage systems, unless there is clear evidence that this would be inappropriate;

d) any residual risk can be safely managed; and

e) safe access and escape routes are included where appropriate, as part of an agreed emergency plan.

What could these changes mean?

The main changes here strengthen the need for the incorporation of SuDS for all developments within an area at risk of flooding (unless there is clear evidence that this would be inappropriate), and require safe access and escape routes to be provided as part of an agreed emergency plan. This could mean a greater requirement for Surface Water Drainage Strategies and Flood Warning and Evacuation Plans for development sites within areas at risk of flooding.

The London Boroughs are already ahead of the game when dealing with surface water under the Drain London Project. Elmbridge, Croydon, Harrow, Southwark, to name but a few, have identified areas with critical drainage problem and at risk of flooding from surface water. In these locations Sustainable Urban Drainage Strategies are required to be submitted for all building works, including minor developments, to ensure any development does not increase flood risk on site or elsewhere. Other areas outside the capital for which a SUD’s strategy may be required for minor developments include, Essex, Devon, Cornwall and Sussex.

4. Future flood risk and the requirement for a site specific Flood Risk Assessment

A site-specific flood risk assessment should be provided for all development in Flood Zones 2 and 3. In Flood Zone 1, an assessment should accompany all proposals involving: sites of 1 hectare or more; land which has been identified by the Environment Agency as having critical drainage problems; land identified in a strategic flood risk assessment as being at increased flood risk in future; or land that may be subject to other sources of flooding, where its development would introduce a more vulnerable use.

What could these changes mean?

Under the current framework, sites within Flood Zone 1 (Low Probability of fluvial or tidal flooding) would require a FRA if:

–  The site is over 1 hectare;

–  The site has been identified as having critical drainage problems;

–  The development results in ‘more vulnerable’ uses (such as residential uses) or;

–  The site may be subject to other sources of flooding.

Under the draft NPPF 2018, a site within Flood Zone 1 would also require a FRA if it is identified in a SFRA as being at increased risk of flooding in the future. This could mean that more sites within Flood Zone 1 will require a FRA should the draft document be passed.

Under revised draft document even if a site is within Flood Zone 1 at the present day, if the SFRA shows a site could potentially be within Flood Zones 2 or 3 with climate change, or at risk of flooding from other sources (such as surface water, groundwater or sewer) once the impacts of climate change in the future have been taken into account, then a FRA may be required.

In conclusion:

As always the devil is in the detail. The evolution of flood risk assessment within planning over the past 3 years – principally, the widespread adoption of the requirement for SuDS for many smaller developments – has demonstrated that whilst policy wording may remain similar or even the same, it is the technical interpretation and implementation of it that has the greatest impact on the end user.

The draft planning practice guidance to which will accompany the draft revised National Planning Policy Framework is due to be published imminently.

Consultation on the draft revised text of the National Planning Policy Framework closes at 11:45pm on 10 May 2018.

If you wish to discuss Flood Risk Assessment, SuDS, or any other element of flood risk within planning, please don’t hesitate to contact Unda on 01293 214444, or email info@unda.co.uk