Housing and Planning Bill - Report (5th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:00 pm on 25th April 2016.

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Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government 6:00 pm, 25th April 2016

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, for raising this very important issue, and the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, for pointing out the feeling of the House on the matter. I share it; I know, following the devastation of this winter’s floods, that we are all keen to ensure that new housing development is brought forward only when it is safe from flooding and without increasing flood risk everywhere.

Following the floods in December, the Government are taking action but we can go further. I am keen to listen to the House and consider how we can respond to the proposals. I recognise that there is unease about the ability of the planning system to deliver sustainable drainage. The new, strengthened policy came into effect in April last year and it will take some time for developments affected by that policy to reach completion before it is possible to reach a clear view on its effectiveness. To date, the vast majority of the available evidence on take-up of sustainable drainage systems predates the introduction of the policy change.

However, following helpful conversations with noble Lords last week, I can confirm that, in response to the amendment, we commit to undertaking a full review on the strengthened planning policy on sustainable drainage systems by April 2017. I can also confirm that we will take action to make changes, including closely examining the need for any legislative measures, if evidence shows that the strengthened policy is failing to deliver. I am keen that the review is informed by a wide range of experiences and hope that noble friends and members of the Adaptation Sub-Committee will play an active part in taking it and any recommendations forward. Officials are developing a plan to identify what further work is needed to improve our evidence on the effectiveness of the policy, including the take-up of sustainable drainage systems in new development. They will welcome the opportunity to work with stakeholders on this.

As well as these commitments, we have established the national flood resilience review, led by Oliver Letwin, to assess how the country can be better protected from future flooding and increasingly extreme weather events. This review will identify any gaps in our approach and pinpoint where our defences and modelling need strengthening, allowing us to take prompt action. The review is due to report in the summer.

The Government are committed to ensuring that development is safe from flooding and the delivery of SuDS is part of our planning policy. We also recognise the importance and benefits of sustainable drainage systems in our planning guidance, for not only reducing the impacts of flooding, but removing pollutants from urban run-off and the added benefits for amenity, recreation and wildlife. I hope, with this reassurance, that the noble Baroness will feel free to withdraw her amendment.