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Planning & Development

Planners and developers have a responsibility to ensure future developments are sustainable and do not increase flood risk to the site or surrounding area. This is steered by national and local policy, and developers are required to consider all types of flooding and use sustainable drainage systems to manage surface water.

Planning Policy

Planning policy aims to provide sustainable development in the right places, taking full account of flood risks and climate change. This is implemented through national and local planning policy and is supported by accompanying guidance (see table below).

National Planning Policy Local Planning Policy
Policy Guidance Policy Guidance
National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) Local Plan Supplementary Planning Documents
Neighbourhood Plan (where available, not a legal requirement) Other guidance notes as available




National Planning and Flood Risk Management

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) sets out the Government’s planning policies for England and how these are expected to be applied by Local Planning Authorities (LPA) and decision-makers, both in drawing up plans and making decisions about planning applications. Section 14 of the NPPF sets out how the challenges of climate change, flooding and coastal change will be approached through planning and development.

Click here to download the National Planning Policy Framework document.

The interpretation of the NPPF is supported by the Planning Practice Guidance (PPG). This is a web-based resource which sets out how the government’s planning policies are expected to be applied in England. The flood risk and coastal change section of the PPG advises how to take account of and address the risks associated with flooding and coastal change in the planning process.

In broad terms, this national framework requires plans and developments to:

  • Take into account climate change over the longer term to avoid increased vulnerability to the range of impacts arising from climate change.
  • Develop policies to manage flood risk from all sources, taking account of advice from the flood risk management authorities (RMAs).
  • Ensure new development does not increase flood risk elsewhere.
  • Avoid inappropriate development in areas at risk of flooding by directing development away from areas at highest risk.
  • Where development is necessary, make it safe without increasing flood risk elsewhere and direct the most vulnerable development to areas of lowest flood risk.
  • Be supported by an appropriate site specific Flood Risk Assessment, where one is required.
  • Ensure development is appropriately flood resilient and resistant.
  • Major development should incorporate sustainable drainage systems (SuDS).


Local Plans

What is a Local Plan?

The Local Plan is a plan drawn up by the Local Planning Authority (LPA) which is the Unitary or District Council, not the County Council. The plan addresses the needs and opportunities for future development within the local area as well as providing the opportunity to safeguard the environment and adapt to climate change.


How is a Local Plan produced?

The LPA should seek advice from the relevant flood Risk Management Authorities (RMAs) when preparing the Local Plan, particularly from the Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA), to ensure the plan is compatible with the Local Flood Risk Management Strategy.

Local Plans should be informed by a Strategic Flood Risk Assessment (SFRA) and should include policies to manage flood risk from all sources. A risk based approach should be adopted to decide the location of development site allocations and should manage and avoid flood risk to people and property, as well as taking climate change into account.


The LPA should carry out a sustainability appraisal on each proposal within a Local Plan during its preparation; this is a systematic process which aims to promote sustainable development.

National planning policy sets clear guidance on how a Local Plan should be developed in the ‘plan making’ section. For further guidance on considering flood risk in local plans, see the ‘taking flood risk into account in the preparation of Local Plans’ section.

Once the Local Plan has been examined and adopted by the LPA, the plan, an adoption statement, and the sustainability appraisal must be made publicly available. The Local Plan, together with neighbourhood plans, guides decisions on whether or not a planning application will be accepted, and steers the future development within a local area.

You can find out more about Local Plans and how they are produced here.


How can the community get involved with the Local Plan process?

The community will have the opportunity to consult and influence the Local Plan at various stages and again during the examination of the plan before it is adopted by the Council. This allows for the needs and priorities of the community to be reflected.

To view the Local Plan for your area, visit your LPA’s website.


Neighbourhood Plans

Neighbourhood Plans are a way for communities to decide the future of the places where they live and work, giving them the power to shape the development of their local area through choosing where they want development to occur and what this should look like. It is not a legal requirement to complete a Neighbourhood Plan, but a right which communities in England can choose to use.

As a community you can provide evidence and local knowledge about historic local flooding within the plan to support the Strategic Flood Risk Assessments when considering whether areas would be appropriate for development.

Once approved, a Neighbourhood Plan has the same legal status as the Local Plan and becomes part of the statutory development plan, against which the outcome of planning permission applications are determined. Neighbourhood Development Orders and Community Right to Build Orders allow communities to grant planning permission either in full or in outline for the types of development they want to see in their areas.

The plan can highlight local problems such as flood risk and develop policies for land use to allow communities to manage this risk. This could be by steering development away from at risk areas or promoting the use of sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) or water storage within the community. Policies that are produced cannot block development that is already part of the Local Plan, but what they can do is shape where that development will go and what it will look like.

You can find out more about Neighbourhood Planning here.

Not all areas have a Neighbourhood Plan, but you can check your Local Planning Authority’s website to see if there is one in your local area.


How Local Plans and Neighbourhood Plans take account of flood risk

Strategic Flood Risk Assessments

Policies for managing flood risk in Local Plans and Neighbourhood Plans are informed by a Strategic Flood Risk Assessment (SFRA) which is undertaken by the Local Planning Authority.

SFRA’s assess the risk of flooding within the local area by:

  • Providing evidence of flood risk from all sources, and the risk to and from surrounding areas.
  • Taking into account the impacts of climate change on future flood risk in the area.
  • Considering the impact that land use changes and development will have on flood risk.
  • Considering opportunities to reduce flood risk to existing communities and developments.
  • Taking account of all available evidence, such as Local Flood Risk Management Strategies.

There are two levels of SFRA. All LPAs must carry out a Level 1 assessment and apply the Sequential Test. It may be necessary to expand the scope of this assessment to a more detailed Level 2 assessment and an Exception Test if the necessary development cannot be accommodated outside of the flood risk area.

The LPA should use the SFRA to:

  • Inform the sustainability appraisal of the Local Plan, to ensure flood risk is fully considered when determining site allocations and preparing planning policies.
  • Apply the Sequential Test, and where necessary apply the Exception Test when determining land use allocations.
  • Identify the requirements for site specific FRAs, including sites at risk from sources other than river and sea flooding.
  • Determine the level of flood risk to accept in relation to emergency planning capability.
  • Identify opportunities to reduce flood risk by managing surface water and providing provision for the conveyance and storage of floodwater.

You can find out more on this GOV.UK webpage here.

The Strategic Flood Risk Assessment for your area can be found on your LPA’s website.


Flood Zones – for risk of flooding from rivers and the sea

Flood zones are used to classify the probability of flooding from rivers, the sea and tidal sources in reference to planning and development. There are three flood zones, ranging from flood zone 1 to 3, with 1 being at the lowest risk. The zones ignore the presence of existing defences because these can be breached, overtopped and may not be in existence for the lifetime of the development.

See the ‘Flood Zone and flood risk tables’ section of this guidance here to find out more about what the different flood zones mean.

Use this flood map for planning to find out what flood zone a location is in.

Example of the Environment Agency’s flood map for planning


Flood zones can be used to inform initial decisions on potential areas for development. However, flood zones do not take into consideration the risk of flooding from surface water and groundwater which are covered by separate mapping. Also, flood zones do not consider the possible impacts of climate change on future flood risk, and therefore planners and developers should make reference to the SFRA when considering potential future flood risk.

The basic principle is that development should be steered towards flood zone 1. Where no reasonably available sites exist in flood zone 1, a Sequential Test should be applied to guide development to available sites in flood zone 2 and then flood zone 3.

There are five different categories of flood risk vulnerabilities. For example, residential properties fall within ‘more vulnerable’, whereas buildings used for shops are classified as ‘less vulnerable’. The land use vulnerability of the development must also be considered in the context of flood zones.

You can find out more about flood zones and their use in the ‘Flood Zone and flood risk tables’ section here.