Local planning authorities need more support to plan for resilient communities

Just 12% of local authorities strongly agree that they have the skills and expertise to take account of flood risk now and in the future in planning decisions, according to a survey conducted by the Town & Country Planning Association (TCPA).

The survey, which was based on a sample of 65 local authorities in the UK, was designed to assess the degree to which local authorities are incorporating the future impacts of climate change into their planning processes. Spatial planning plays a central role in building community resilience to problems such as extreme heat or flood risk. 

The results show that despite over 60% of councils declaring climate emergencies, local authorities have a critical shortage of skills and expertise in relation to planning for climate change. For example, only 2% of local authorities are considering future insurance availability and affordability when making planning decisions, and only a third of local authorities are seriously considering the impacts of climate change when deciding whether to grant planning permission.

The survey results highlighted the need for more support and resources, with the top two resources that local authorities need to enable them to better incorporate the impacts of climate change in planning decisions being more information regarding the expected impacts of climate change in the local area; and knowledge of how to incorporate climate projections into planning decisions. 

Katherine Greig, Senior Transition Specialist at Flood Re commented ‘We are concerned about the impact that climate change and local authority planning processes could have on future flood risk. Higher sea levels, more frequent heavy downpours and increased surface water runoff must be properly considered in the planning phase of all new homes. Local Authorities need to be planning for resilient houses in resilient places so that homes remain safe and insurance remains affordable now and into the future. That is why Flood Re is pleased to be partnering with the Town and Country Planning Association to deliver later this year a series of workshops and online resources for local authorities on planning for climate change. 

In response to the survey results Hugh Ellis, Director of Policy at the Town and Country Planning Association, said 'we know that the greatest challenge for many local planning authorities is a critical lack of resources. If we really want to drive effective change, we need to provide decision-makers with clear policy priorities, transparent methodologies, and, wherever possible, nationally agreed standards'. 

With only a decade to avert catastrophic climate change, it is clear that local authorities urgently need the skills as well as the capacity to plan for the infrastructure needed to help communities to better adapt to its long-term impacts.


Notes to editor: 

  1. The survey analysis is based on 65 responses from different local authorities, collected between 03/06/20 and 24/06/20.
  2. The TCPA will be working with Flood Re in autumn 2020 to deliver a series of workshops and online resources for local authorities on planning for climate change adaptation.
  3. Explore the survey results in full here.