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Regional planning must take climate change to heart

ICE news

CLIMATE CHANGE needs to be at the core of regional planning policy in the East of England to ensure sustainable development, ICE East of England and Friends of the Earth (FoE) told a public hearing last week.

The views were raised at the East of England 'examination in public' of the draft regional plan.

The meeting was attended by the East of England Regional Assembly, Environment Agency, local authorities and the House Builders Federation (HBF).

ICE East and FoE joined forces on the subject of climate change, claiming that the current regional spatial strategy failed to address how development on flood plains would cope.

Key proposals in the East of England regional spatial strategy (RSS) include building 478,000 new homes by 2021. According to the Environment Agency, 41% of these will be in high flood risk areas.

'And with climate change, this will get worse, ' said Agency regional strategic and development planning team leader Roy Lobley. He added that he doubted whether there was suffi cient capacity in the region to build so many houses in areas of low flood risk.

'Natural fl od plains will fl od wider, and if we don't improve defences there'll be even more flooding.' ICE East of England regional manager John Canton said: 'If we build all these homes, we will have to sign up to higher maintenance costs, which may not be sustainable.' 'Flood plains are prone to fl oding because that's what they're there for. Only essential developments should be built on fl ood plains, because people living there will periodically suffer from fl ooding, ' warned FoE east of England campaigns co-ordinator Mary Edwards.

'The RSS has no policy for climate change or reducing greenhouse gases - it only talks about adaptation to the changing climate, but climate change should be central, ' she added.

The HBF hit back, saying: 'There are no absolute environmental constraints to growth or development, merely those we deem unacceptable to meet, ' said HBF representative Paul Cronk.

Canton countered: 'I believe there are absolute constraints [on development] where climate can't be managed.' Edwards said that Friends of the Earth wanted to forge closer links with the ICE: 'Climate change is a matter that will affect the future of the planet. Finding ideas to make a difference is what the ICE has the power to do.' She also welcomed the ICE's strong stance on long-term sustainable development.

Canton suggested that engineering could help to solve some of the housing issues 'by designing floating housing developments in the future'.

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