Each person’s health, prospects and happiness are impacted hugely by the place in which they live. The very first planning legislation in 1909 was the product of concern over basic living standards and the wider campaign for high-quality place-making, led by the Garden Cities movement. And yet in recent decades, the English planning system has failed to keep the long-term public interest of communities at its heart. Nothing demonstrates this quite so keenly as homes continuing to be built in flood risk areas.
Living in a home that has flooded can have devastating outcomes for those resident’s health and wellbeing. Flooding displaces people from their homes for nine months on average and the financial strains are enormous, particularly for households which are not fully insured. There are five million homes in England at risk of flooding. Good, common-sense planning should be able to stop this number from growing and we do have reasonable national policy to steer development away from flood risk areas. And yet every year permission is granted for hundreds more homes in flood zones, without integrating sufficient mitigation measures to make the homes safe to live in over the long term.
In the face of the climate threat, we must do better to support our planners to keep flood risk at the front and centre of their minds. Last month the Town & Country Planning Association and Environment Agency published a new video resource which provides some practical steps to address this issue. This can serve introductory high-level reminder to planners of the powers that they do have to manage flood risk in a creative and forward-thinking way. This starting point must be supported by a radical upskilling and investment in our severely overstretched local authority planning teams.