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Councils given greater planning powers of flood protection

More power is being given to councils to protect those living in flood risk areas and planning minister Caroline Flint has urged local authorities to get crack down on inappropriate building on flood plains.

New guidance published yesterday gives councils five clear steps for maximising the planning rules to better manage flood risks in their area.

It is now compulsory to consult with the Environment Agency on planning applications in flood risk areas and where councils ignore their advice on major developments the Government will intervene.

Sir Michael Pitt concluded in his interim report on the summer floods that these rules will prevent and reduce flooding - but councils need to rigorously apply them to make sure people at risk get the protection they deserve.

ABI research has found that if councils apply flood planning rules effectively the cost of flooding could be reduced by more than half in the Thames Gateway and by 96% in other growth areas.

The five steps set out in the planning guidance that councils should follow for deciding new development include identifying what the flood risks are including river/sea breaches, inadequate drainage and surface water run off or sewer problems. Risk can be avoided by prioritising non-flood areas first for new development. The guidance also highlights the need to critically assess whether the requirement of a new development outweighs flood risk, including following Environment Agency advice. Flooding should be controlled using sustainable drainage and good design. New buildings in areas that might flood need to be resilient and safe.

Environment Agency head of planning Mark Southgate said, "The summer 2007 floods highlighted the severe impact that flooding can have on people and communities. We welcome the Government's policy on planning and flood risk that seeks to steer new development away from high flood risk areas. Six regional workshops have been organised in partnership with the Environment Agency and members of the insurance industry, to reinforce this message to local councils.

The Government has already intervened in 24 cases following Environment Agency advice. Four were called in, a further four are under consideration and the rest were returned to councils following improvement to flood protection measures. Developers can help avoid intervention through good pre-application engagement with local planning authorities and the Environment Agency.

Flint said: ""The Government has put tough planning rules in place for flood risk areas that we need councils to enforce. To help them we are issuing a five-step guide to planning new homes so councils have no excuse for failing to protect their communities."

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