PLANNERS IN Berkshire should assume the two year old £110M Jubilee River flood channel has failed to reduce flooding risks, the Environment Agency said this week.
The move effectively puts at risk 4,800 properties originally thought to be safe from flooding.
The Agency has acted following publication of a damning report produced for it by consultant Atkins.
The report exposes a list of design and construction defects in the channel (NCE 19/26 August). It concludes that under the current operating regime the channel can handle just 63% of its design capacity.
The Agency believes that by altering the operating regime the channel could be used to 81% of its design capacity in a flood.
But it has nevertheless advised the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead Council's planning department to ignore the channel when considering planning applications.
'Improved flood defences do reduce the risk of flooding but do not remove the risk completely, ' said the Agency in a statement this week.
'The Agency and the planning authorities adopt a precautionary approach to all development in the floodplain in line with government guidance.
'For the area protected we are maintaining this precautionary approach to development until the capacity issues are resolved.'
The new Agency position has effectively removed planners' scope for using their judgement when assessing the risk of flooding in the area.
Flood Zone maps provided by the Agency do not allow for hard flood defences, but local authorities can use local knowledge of these when assessing flood risk.