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Following the floods of last summer, civil servant Sir Michael Pitt was commissioned by the Government to carry out an independent review into the lessons to be learned. The severe flooding of June and July last year resulted in the deaths of 13 people, damage to 48,000 homes and 7,000 businesses and widespread disruption of major infrastructure. Sir Michael’s interim report into the review was published in December 2007, with the final report due out later this year. It looked at the events of May to July 2007, the wettest months since records began, and makes a number of recommendations to ensure that the UK is better equipped to deal with the risk of future flooding.

Recognising the findings of other reports such as Stern and Foresight, which predict that the UK will be subjected to more extreme weather due to climate change, the report concludes that flood risk is here to stay. One of the recommendations of the interim Pitt review is that local planning authorities should apply the guidelines in Planning Policy Statement 25: Development and Flood Risk (PPS25) more rigorously, giving due consideration to all sources of flood risk and ensuring developers make a full contribution to the cost of building and maintaining necessary flood defences. But where does this leave the Government’s target for three million new homes by 2020? And what does it mean for developers, tasked with interpreting a range of flood risk policies and regulations and trying to secure planning permission for sites in areas liable to flooding?

In England and Wales it is estimated that approximately 2.3 million properties (9% of all properties) lie in areas at risk of flooding. Of these, nearly 600,000 are in areas where the risk of flooding is greater than a one in 75 chance in any year.

PPS25 was published at the end of 2006 with the objective of ensuring “that flood risk is taken into account at all stages in the planning process to avoid inappropriate development in areas at risk of flooding and to direct development away from areas of highest risk”.

Flood risk is a material planning consideration and the guidance set out in PPS25 must be taken into account by regional planning bodies and local planning authorities in the preparation of local plan policies and the allocation of sites for future development.

PPS25 envisages that this should be a three-step approach:

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