’More must be done to take account of the role nature plays in climate adaptation and mitigation,’ says letter

Adam Winslow has put his name to a letter urging the government to strengthen planning rules to prevent new developments in current and future flood risk areas.

In a LinkedIn post yesterday (27 July 2023), Aviva’s chief executive of general insurance for the UK and Ireland said there were ”critical opportunities” to improve current rules and that the “time to act was now”.

In the post, he attached a letter addressed to Rachel Maclean MP, minister for housing, which said that ”tens of thousands of houses are still being built in high flood risk areas, against the advice of the Environment Agency”.

It was written by Labour MP Emma Hardy, who is also a member of the APPG on Flood Prevention, with Winslow being among 10 signatories on the letter.

Hardy added: ”Our planning rules are not currently aligned with the UK’s legally binding net zero targets and more must be done to take account of the role nature plays in climate adaptation and mitigation.”

‘Enforceable conditions’

This came after Winslow and Hardy hosted a roundtable in Parliament to discuss how the UK can build more sustainably for the future earlier this month (6 July 2023).

Two days prior to this, Winslow called on the government to work “hand in glove” with the insurance industry to ensure homes were built in the right places.

In the letter, Hardy said that ”forthcoming changes to the National Planning Policy Framework and the introduction of National Development Management Plans provide a critical opportunity to improve current rules and enable local authorities to build more sustainably”.

“Our roundtable found much agreement on how these rules can be improved,” she said.

”We believe that planning rules should be further strengthened to prevent new development in current and future flood risk areas.”

According to research from Axa, between 70,000 and 120,000 homes were built in flood-prone areas in England from 2009 and 2020.

Personal lines insurer LV= then reported in November 2021 that an additional 200 planning permissions had been granted for 5,283 new homes to be built in the highest-risk local authorities in the country, with a total of 4,255 located in areas pre-identified as highly likely to flood.

Flood Re chief executive Andy Bord told Insurance Times that homes can be built on flood plains, however, properties must be “built in the right way [and] to the right standard”.

But he said that “the right enforcement to make sure that has happened” was “currently missing”.

Hardy said that where development elsewhere was not possible, planning should be subject to “enforceable conditions around flood mitigation and resilience at area and property level”.

”This will require investment to create extra capacity for local planning authorities and to enforce these conditions,” she said.

“Our planning rules should also be aligned with the UK’s legally binding net zero and environmental targets, consider carbon assessments and take account of nature both in terms of adaptation and mitigation.

”The signatories of this letter, listed below, agree with the vital need for these changes to the UK’s planning rules.”

Other signatories to the letter included ABI director of general insurance policy Mervyn Skeet, Flood Re head of transition Martin Lennon, West Oxfordshire District Council councillor Andrew Prosser, Town and Country Planning Association projects and policy manager Celia Davis, Aldersgate Group interim executive director Signe Norberg, University of West of England (UWE) – Centre for Sustainable Planning research associate Amanda Ramsay, Policy Connect senior policy and research manager Rob Allen and Campaign to Protect Rural England planning policy lead Elizabeth Bundred Woodward.