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Plain sailing? Evaluating the effectiveness of PPS25

Planning & Development Associates Ltd 123 Pall Mall London SW1Y 5EA

A Paper for the Inter-Institutional Flood Risk Management Group

T: 0207 1010 789 E:

December 2011

Plain sailing? Evaluating the effectiveness of PPS25


Introduction National planning policy guidance on flood risk has been through a number of iterations, often in response to episodes of severe flooding. The current version of PPS25 ‘Development and Flood Risk’, which was published in March 2010 replaced the 2006 version which represented a defining moment in the strengthening of controls over development in areas at risk of flooding. Prior to 2006, evidence suggested that the guidance offered by the Environment Agency to local planning authorities was ignored more than it was heeded and that there was insufficient legal force to avoid this. In 2006, the publication of PPS25 was accompanied by regulations which afforded the views of the Environment Agency legal status in the planning process. As a result since 2006, there have been a decreasing number of cases where the advice of the Environment Agency has been ignored. The statistical evidence supports this. However, there remain instances where decisions are taken against the Agency’s advice and these include decisions of the Secretary of State on called-in applications. The question posed in this review is therefore whether in a climate where economic growth and increasing the supply of new housing are perceived as critical to supporting recovery, this is a sign of things to come. A case study is examined where the risk of flooding was disregarded in favour of the regeneration and housing benefits of development.

The Inter-Institutional Flood Risk Management Group (IIFRMG) is a cross-sector group looking at the impact of flooding on the built environment. The partner institutions are ICE, CIWEM, RIBA, RICS, RTPI, RUSI and the Landscape Institute. The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the IIFRMG. Plain sailing? Evaluating the effectiveness of PPS25


1. Evolving planning policy A revised version of Planning Policy Statement 25 (PPS25) was published in March 2010 to replace the previous version published in December 2006. The key changes in the 2010 version resulted in revisions to tables D1 and D2 in Annex D of the PPS to clarify the definition of functional floodplain, and to amend how the policy is applied to essential infrastructure, including water treatment works, emergency services facilities, installations requiring hazardous substances consent and wind turbines in flood risk areas. This amendment was not as substantive as the 2006 version which replaced Planning Policy Guidance Note 25: Development and Flood Risk, published in 2001. The 2006 version of PPS25 sought to strengthen and clarify policy that flood risk should be taken into account at all stages of the planning process. It directed councils to avoid inappropriate development in areas at risk of flooding and was published alongside a flooding Direction, which provided scope for greater scrutiny for major developments in flood risk areas. Since 1 October 2006 the Environment Agency (EA) has been a statutory consultee on matters relating to: • most development in Flood Zones 2 and 3; • major development in Flood Zone 1; • development within 20 metres of main rivers; and • proposals involving culverting or controlling the flow of any river or stream. The requisite powers are contained in the Town and Country Planning (General Development Procedure) (Amendment) (No.2) (England) Order 2006. This Order ensures that the EA are consulted on all relevant planning applications. Prior to 2006 this was not always the case and resulted in a perception that the recommendations of the EA were ignored. Plain sailing? Evaluating the effectiveness of PPS25

Planning Policy Statement 25 – revised March 2010


2. Evaluating effectiveness In 1998 an internal report prepared by the Agency confirmed that in 44% of cases surveyed where the Agency had recommended against the granting of planning permission, the local authority, had proceeded to grant planning approval and ignored this advice. In 1996, 38% of cases where the Environment Agency had raised an objection to a planning application on the grounds of flood risk were ignored. In 2000, 14% of similar cases were ignored. Although this represented a reduction in percentage terms the actual number of cases where the Environment Agency’s objection was ignored more than doubled.1 In contrast in the EA’s ‘Development & Flood Risk in England’ Annual Report 2008-2009 published in 2010 highlighted a marked reduction in the number of occasions where applications were permitted against the Agency’s advice. The following data is extracted from the report:


Plain sailing? Evaluating the effectiveness of PPS25


Land-Use Planning: How Effective is it in Reducing Vulnerability to Natural Hazards? Alan Gunne-Jones, Institute of Civil Defence & Disaster Studies, 2003


Development and flood risk in England report 2008-2009 , Environment Agency, 2010


In summarising the position, the Agency were able to draw the following conclusions:


This report marks the second full year of operation of the Flooding Direction. There is clear evidence that the continued discussion between parties required under the Direction has often improved the quality of the development proposed, and the information supporting it, and evidence shows that the final decisions have generally taken into account the policy implications of PPS25. Now that PPS25 and the Flooding Direction are being implemented, the amount of development permitted against our concerns has greatly reduced, and in many cases although our concerns were not fully mitigated, conditions were often attached to the grant of planning permission covering issues such as flood resilience, flood warning and restrictions on ground floor accommodation.

Plain sailing? Evaluating the effectiveness of PPS25

Source: High Level Target 5 - Development & flood risk in England 2007/08. Report to DEFRA and CLG by the Environment Agency, February 2009


Residential development is one particular areas which demonstrates our effectiveness in influencing planning decisions to ensure that they are safe from flood risk. In 2008/09, in cases where we know the final outcome, we initially objected to planning applications on flood risk grounds comprising a total of 68,350 new residential units. Of these only 573 were permitted against our advice. However, we consider the fact that 99% of residential units to which we originally objected were decided in line with our advice to be a considerable success.


The following figure extracted from a Parliamentary Briefing ‘Planning and Flooding’ confirms that the percentage of approved planning applications that went against Environment Agency advice declined from 11.5% during the period 2003-04 to 3.4% during the period 2007-08. This would suggest that over time, PPS25 has led to greater adherence to Environment Agency advice. Year 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08

% of applications approved against EA advice 11.5 8.1 4.7 4.0 3.4

Over a similar period, the number of Environment Agency objections has varied between 4,201 and 6,232. The following figure also extracted from the Parliamentary Briefing demonstrates that whilst the period 2007-08 saw the highest number of objections, there is no evidence to confirm a riding trend in objections per se. Whilst this may to some extent be offset by a decrease in the number of planning applications, it has also been suggested that it is a reflection of the Agency’s greater consultation role under the new PPS 25 regime. Year 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09

Source: Planning and Flooding, Parliamentary Briefing Note SN/SC/4100, C. Barclay, Science & Environment Section

Number of objections 4,634 4,201 4,750 6,232 5,198

Plain sailing? Evaluating the effectiveness of PPS25


Despite the significant decrease in the number of planning applications that were approved against Environment Agency advice, the proportion of LPAs who made decisions against Environment Agency advice, as illustrated in the following table (extracted from the Parliamentary Briefing), has declined at a much slower rate and has actually increased during certain periods. Proportion of LPAs who made decisions against Environment Agency advice Percentage Year 2003-04 29.9 2004-05 35.8 2005-06 26.1 2006-07 21.4 2007-08 23.5 Generally the statistical evidence confirms that the amended version of PPS25 and the associated Flooding Direction regulations have resulted in a decline in the number of cases where planning permissions have been granted contrary to EA advice. However, as the case study detailed overleaf highlights, there still remain high profile cases where this is not the case.


The latest information we have, as a result of PPS25, is that 98% of planning decisions are going in line with the advice of the Environment Agency, which is exactly why we changed PPS25 to make sure that flood risk was taken into account.


Hillary Benn, 2009 Plain sailing? Evaluating the effectiveness of PPS25


Case Study: Beeley Street, Sheffield Site:

Yorkshire Co-Op Society car park, Beeley Street, Sheffield, S2 4LP


Dore Properties

Inspector’s decision:


Secretary of State decision: 28.06.2010 Proposed development: Mixed used redevelopment comprising A1, A3, B1 and 26 residential units Background: Application had been supported by the City Council’s Planning Committee contrary to EA Direction and officer recommendation and this had led to the Secretary of State call-in

Key issue: A key issue identified in the Secretary of State’s Call-In was the extent to which the proposal complies with PPS25 on Development and Flood Risk, with particular regard to: • whether the proposed application takes proper account of the flood risk and the consequences of flooding to the development and whether the development will increase flood risk elsewhere; • whether the sequential approach set out in PPS25 had been followed; and • whether the development was adequately defended against flooding in accordance with PPS25.

Appeal reference: APP/J4423/V/09/2104003

Inspector’s Recommendation: Refuse planning permission due to contravention of PPS 25 Secretary of State decision: Decided to override the decision of the Planning Inspector and the recommendation of the Environment Agency. Decision made on the grounds that the associated regeneration benefits of the proposed development, as well as its sustainability and the contribution the development would make to the housing supply and also potentially to affordable housing, ultimately overrode contravention with the development plan and national flooding policy. Conditions were however imposed to deal with the flood risk issue. Plain sailing? Evaluating the effectiveness of PPS25


3. Conclusions Statistics confirm that the effect of PPS25 as amended in 2006 and the associated ‘Flooding Direction’ has reduced the number of planning decisions are made contrary to Environment Agency advice and recommendations. However there remain a number of key decisions, albeit a reduced number, where planning permissions are issued contrary to EA recommendation. The Beeley Street decision in 2010 is a case in point where the Secretary of State has overruled an Inspector and concluded that regeneration benefits and the delivery of more housing should outweigh flood risk. With a commitment to economic growth and the delivery of increased housing within a slimmed down national planning policy framework, this may signal an opening of the floodgates for similar regeneration-led and pro-growth decisions.

Plain sailing? Evaluating the effectiveness of PPS25


Author Alan Gunne-Jones, Principal T: 0207 1010 789 E:

About this publication This publication contains general information only and is not intended to be comprehensive nor to provide professional advice to cover specific situations. It is not a substitute for such advice and should not be relied upon or used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect you or your business. Planning & Development Associates Ltd accepts no duty of care or liability for any loss occasioned to any person acting or refraining from acting as a result of any material in this publication. Cover image: courtesy of Tewkesbury Borough Council

Plain sailing? Evaluating the effectiveness of PPS25


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Plain sailing? Evaluating the effectiveness of PPS25  

A Paper for the Inter-Institutional Flood Risk Management Group

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