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Environment Agency rejects 6,200 applications due to flood risk in 2007/8

The Environment Agency objected to more than 6,200 planning applications on the grounds of flood risk in 2007/8 - a rise of 31% on the previous year, but 4% of schemes considered to be at risk went ahead regardless.

However, 16 major developments including 240 homes and a primary school went ahead despite Environment Agency objections.

Chief Executive of the Environment Agency Paul Leinster, said: "There are already millions of people at risk from flooding and this number is set to rise in future due to the impacts of climate change.

"We helped reduce the risk of flooding to some 7,000 extra properties in England in the six months to September 2007. We're playing our part in managing the risk to properties and people, and local authorities have a crucial part to play by restricting development in flood plains.

"By working closely with planning authorities, we have continued to influence decisions and prevented developments which would have placed the occupants at a high risk of flooding. We're pleased that most councils take our flood risk advice in relation to planning decisions, but are concerned that a minority of decisions go against our advice," he said.

Despite the rise, from 4,750 objections in 2006/2007 to 6,200 in 2007/8, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) said it was concerned that developments were still going ahead despite Agency concerns, and these developments could be: "harder and more expensive to insure."

96% of planning decisions where the Environment Agency objected were upheld. However, 16 developments were approved against Environment Agency advice - up from 13 in 2006/07 - including some 240 homes, a primary school, offices, apartments, a business park and a ferry terminal.

The insurance industry warns that granting planning approval against Environment Agency advice could render houses uninsurable.

The ABI's Director of General Insurance and Health Nick Starling said: "Despite tougher planning controls, it is worrying that during 2007 and 2008 16 developments – which included 240 homes – were given planning permission despite the Environment Agency advising against them because of the flood risk.

"This highlights the importance of developers and planners following the ABI’s recently published guidance on insurance for new developments. Building on floodplains should be avoided, but if it has to take place then developers must ensure that properties incorporate measures to reduce and manage the flood risk. Without proper measures to reduce flood risk, these properties will be uninsurable, unsellable and uninhabitable," he said.

The Agency also announced a series of projects that will benefit from an extra £50M in flood prevention spend this year.

  • £3.1M at the St Germans pumping station in Norfolk which, when completed, will protect over 20,000 residential properties and agricultural land valued at £3.6bn;

  • £4.7M in defence work along the River Thames at Deptford and Bermondsey, protecting an some 33,800 homes when complete;

  • £3.4M to upgrade the Hull Tidal Surge Barrier, which protects 17,000 properties from flooding.

Since 1 October 2006, the Environment Agency has been a statutory consultee on all planning applications (other than minor development) in areas where there is a risk of flooding, and local planning authorities must now consult the Environment Agency before making any decisions on new development.

From 1 January 2007, the new Flood Direction has allowed Government to call-in major applications where local planning authorities were minded to overrule Environment Agency advice on flood risk.

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