MPs demand tougher rules on flood plains

Floods in Halifax Road, Todmorden.

Floods in Halifax Road, Todmorden.

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Developers should be forced to do more to make new housing estates resilient to flooding, according to MPs.

A gap in planning rules means around 12,000 houses a year are built on the flood plain without measures to limit flood risk, the Environmental Audit Committee found.

While the Environment Agency advises against house-building on flood plain it does not consider applications that involve 10 homes or fewer.

These smaller housing schemes are also not obliged to include measures such as permeable paving surfaces or ponds and wetland areas to reduce surface water flooding,

EAC chairwoman Joan Walley said: “With the effects of climate change likely to persist for centuries to come, the need to adapt is unavoidable.

“Flooding poses the biggest adaptation risk here in the UK, yet the adaptation programme gives you no sense of this.

“To bring about real climate resilience, the Government needs to provide a more top down strategic direction to identify priority risks.”

The Government has faced criticism from Yorkshire for offering more help to other parts of the country in comparison to the assistance given to Calderdale, Hull and Sheffield which have been hit by flooding in recent years.

The EAC report accuses the Government of adopting a “reactive” funding strategy for flood defences, prioritising the most recent flooding events, and calls on Ministers to allowing the Environment Agency to fund the most beneficial schemes “without political interference”.

With the UK increasingly at risk from extreme weather, the Government should consider making it mandatory for organisations in charge of critical infrastructure and services, such as power stations, to report on what they are doing to adapt to climate change, it said.

MPs also called on Ministers to review the “physical resources, capacity and skills” available to deal with an emergency such as flooding, in the face of local authority and emergency service cuts.

A Government spokeswoman said: “Adaptation is mainstreamed across Government, with a range of departments funding activities to build resilience to climate change.

“We are committed to addressing the risks from climate change - by increasing awareness and taking account of the changing climate in all our decision-making, we can prepare for and minimise these risks, save money and safeguard our homes and communities for the future.”