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Gwyn Topham www.theguardian.com
More than 5,000 new homes in flood-risk areas of England have been granted planning permission so far this year, as local authorities try to tackle the housing shortage.
Researchers analysing 16,000 planning applications lodged between January and September discovered about 200 had been approved, for a total of 5,283 new homes, in areas where more than 10% of homes were already at significant risk of flooding.
Insurers said they were concerned about the numbers of homes being built where owners were at risk of experiencing “traumatic and devastating losses”.
But builders said that the need for new homes meant even flood-risk areas would have to be used – and with the climate crisis leaving more homes exposed, more defences and mitigation measures would have to be put in place.
Martin Milliner, the claims director at LV= General Insurance, which commissioned the report, said: “Whilst we welcome the government’s commitment to increase housing we have concerns about the UK’s resilience to future flood events, and in particular the number of new housing developments in flood-risk areas that are still receiving approval.
“Flooding is an extremely traumatic event which has a devastating impact on a person’s life, both physically and mentally.”
Andrew Whitaker, the planning director at the Home Builders Federation, said: “We face an acute housing crisis. Planning policy already directs development away from those areas most liable to flooding.
“However, where there is no other choice, or sites in high flood risk zones are the most sustainable sites for other reasons, developments have to meet extremely stringent mitigation requirements.”
The Local Government Association’s housing and environment spokesperson, David Renard, said almost 99% of applications were decided in line with Environment Agency flood risk advice.
He added: “Funding for flood defences needs to be devolved to local areas to ensure money is directed towards projects that best reflect local needs. The government also needs to introduce mandatory anti-flood requirements for new homes in building regulations.”
An investigation by Greenpeace this year found that one-third of England’s most important flood defences were in private hands, with more than 1,000 found to be in a poor state of repair.
More than 5m homes and businesses in England are at risk of flooding, according to Environment Agency estimates.
The government said it was investing over £5.2bn in flood and coastal defences in England, which would improve protection for more than 336,000 properties.
A spokesperson said: “Our national planning policy is clear that floodplain development should be avoided wherever possible, and protections must be put in place when building in these areas is necessary – we expect local planning authorities to follow this guidance.”