Why are we STILL building houses on flood plains?

Flashback to the flooding in Leeds last December
Flashback to the flooding in Leeds last December
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Hundreds of new homes across the country were given the green light in the past few years despite official warnings they will be at risk of flooding, new figures suggest.

The figures from the Environment Agency show that more than 1,200 residential properties have been granted planning permission in the last five years against the advice of the organisation.

The agency’s advice is taken by local planning authorities for the overwhelming majority of houses, but the number of homes being built despite flood concerns may be higher than the figures show. The Environment Agency lodges an initial objection on hundreds of planning applications every year, but is not informed of the final decision.

The number of homes where the organisation was informed - and its advice was overruled - was 124 in 2011/2012, jumping up to 508 in 2012/2013.

But the figure fell to 230 in 2013/2014, and again to 183 for the past two years.

Details of initial objections to planning schemes also suggest some developers are not fully taking flood risk into account when drawing up plans, with the agency raising concerns in the past year over hundreds of new homes due to a risk to life or property.

The Local Government Association said that more than 98 per cent of new homes in 2014/ 15 had planning decisions that were in line with Environment Agency advice.

Martin Tett, environment spokesman at the Local Government Association, said: “Local authorities throw out planning applications which are reckless and irresponsible. Councils are generally opposed to building property on floodplains and over 98 per cent of the 77,125 new homes in 2014/ 15 had planning outcomes in line with Environment Agency advice.

“Where building does take place on a floodplain, the local authority would need to be reassured that adequate defences were in place so that the risk of flooding would be minimised and that measures would be in place to prevent or minimise water from entering homes.”

Homes at risk of flooding which have been constructed or converted into residential properties since January 2012 do not count towards securing partnership funding for flood protection schemes under current government rules. 
A recent survey by the Local Government Association reveals that around 3,224 homes and 1,638 businesses in the region were swamped after storms Desmond, Eva and Frank swept across the country in winter - it is not known how many were on a flood plain.

Calderdale was the worst-hit area in Yorkshire, with 2,135 homes and 945 businesses flooded. More than 15,000 homes and businesses were flooded in areas across northern England, according to the LGA’s snapshot survey. In Leeds, 298 homes and 375 businesses were affected. This compares to 404 and 96 in north Yorkshire, around 350 and 157 in York and 37 and 65 in Kirklees.

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