MP introduces bill proposing ‘binding planning requirements’ for flood resilience measures

A Labour MP has submitted a private members’ bill seeking to set “binding planning requirements” to ensure consistency across council areas in the use of pre-commencement conditions that require developers to introduce flood resilience measures in their new schemes.

Emma Hardy, the MP for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle, yesterday delivered the first reading of her Flooding (Prevention and Insurance) Bill to the House of Commons.

The bill, which is yet to be published in full, is titled: "A Bill to set national minimum requirements for flood mitigation and protection measures in new build public and private properties enforced by local planning authorities; to place reporting requirements on local and national government in relation to flood prevention measures; to establish a certification scheme for improvements to domestic and commercial properties for flood prevention and mitigation purposes and an accreditation scheme for installers of such improvements; to require insurers to take account of such improvements and any existing flood prevention and mitigation measures that were planning permission requirements when determining premiums; to extend eligibility to the Flood Reinsurance scheme under section 64 of the Water Act 2014 to small and medium-sized enterprises and homes built after 2009; and for connected purposes."

In her speech to the house, Hardy said that amongst its purposes, the bill would "set out binding planning requirements for properties, enforced by local authorities".

She explained that, currently, "provided that they are within the scope of current planning law, the property flood resilience measures required in new build properties are... set by local planning authorities in pre-commencement conditions. That results in adjacent local authorities having different requirements in flood zones with the same rating, which is not only inconsistent but hampers collaboration by allowing local authorities to export their flood-related problems to other areas".

Notes on the bill, provided by Hardy's parliamentary office, say that councils can currently "choose what property flood resilience (PFR) measures are required in new build through pre-commencement conditions".

Hardy said that her bill would "create a level playing field by setting minimum standards nationwide".

The MP said that she hoped these minimum standards would be based on "measures put in place by Hull City Council and those supported by the Association of British Insurers, which is calling for the government to enact schedule 3 to the Flood and Water Management Act 2010, and align planning policy related to sustainable drainage systems, as recommended by the [government's climate change advisors] the Climate Change Committee."

The provisions of the 2010 act make the use of sustainable drainage in all new developments mandatory and provide a mechanism for adoption and maintenance. However, it has not been implemented in England.

In July 2019, the Climate Change Committee recommended that the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and planning practice guidance (PPG) be updated to ensure that sustainable urban drainage systems (SuDS) installations "maximise their impact in terms of flood risk reduction and their co-benefits. This could be done by aligning the NPPF and PPG with the aims of Schedule 3 of the Flood and Water Management Act (2010)."

Hull's local plan states that "all development should incorporate sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) unless it has been demonstrated this is not technically or economically feasible".

Although SuDS are not a mandatory requirement in new developments, the government's recently-published national guidance said that "ideally" water "needs to be captured for use on site for irrigation and non-potable uses". The NPPF states that development should incorporate sustainable drainage systems "unless there is clear evidence that this would be inappropriate".

Hardy said that the "common-sense move" to strengthen planning policy requirements for SuDS "is supported by both the insurance industry and Flood Re in its most recent review, and it can be supported by members on both sides of the House. It is about prevention not cure, and it is about building homes that are fit for a changing future."

Elsewhere, Hardy said that, at present, "there is no mandatory requirement for insurers to lower premiums for homes where flood risk is mitigated by flood resilience or protection measures. That is largely due to lack of evidence, both at a landscape scale and at the level of individual properties."

To remedy this, Hardy said that her bill would make the "relevant government agencies" make "readily available the information on all flood prevention and mitigation measures in place regionally and locally".

Hardy said that, collectively, she hoped that the measures set out in the bill would "make it impossible to build a house without adequate flood protections".

The bill's second reading is set for 14 January.

Private members' bills rarely make it through the legislative process and are often used by MPs to raise awareness of issues.

This article originally appeared in ENDS Report's sister title Planning Magazine