Government consults on changes to planning policy statement 25: development and flood risk

United Kingdom

The Government is currently consulting on proposed changes to PPS25: ‘Development and Flood Risk’. PPS25 sets out the Government’s spatial planning policy for avoiding and managing flood risk. The principal aims of   PPS25 are to locate development away from flood risk wherever possible and also to prevent inappropriate new development in areas at risk of flooding. The central theme is to integrate flood risk assessments into all stages of the planning process and to ensure that the most vulnerable infrastructure and real estate is located in areas of least flood risk. The proposed changes to PPS25 do not fundamentally change this approach. However, the consultation document does include some significant policy shifts that, if implemented, will have important consequences for the real estate and energy sectors. Of particular interest is the proposal that facilities requiring hazardous substances consents be reclassed from ‘highly vulnerable’ to ‘essential infrastructure’. This means that such facilities could then be permitted to be built in high risk flood zones, provided

a) the sustainability benefits outweigh the flood risk

b) previously developed land is preferred, unless none is reasonably available and

c) they would not increase flood risk elsewhere and, where possible, would reduce flood risk overall.

This would apply to, for example, nuclear power stations or carbon capture and storage installations, where the bulk storage of materials requiring hazardous substances is required to be co-located with other facilities such as coastal or existing infrastructure.

It is also proposed that wind turbines are explicitly included within the definition of ‘essential infrastructure’, also allowing wind farm development in high risk flood areas and also removing any existing potential inconsistencies between planners and decision-makers as to how wind farms should be treated under PPS25.

The Government also proposes to amend the definition of ‘functional’ floodplain (by allowing greater flexibility to consider local circumstances) so that the floodplain can be appropriately identified in order to enable appropriate planning decisions.

The consultation can be found here.  The consultation closes 3 November 2009. 

The consultation is an important reminder that a thorough and well written flood risk assessment is an essential part of the suite of assessments supporting large planning applications. Further, with sustainability and climate change issues gaining more importance within the context of investment in real estate, flood risk assessments are likely to gain greater attention in terms of investment valuations and transactional due diligence.