July 2021 Update to the National Planning Policy Framework

On 20th July 2021, the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and the Environment Agency (EA) climate change allowances were both updated.  The changes potentially have a considerable impact on projects and the scope of Flood Risk Assessments (FRA).  However, how these changes are to be implemented at local level and any local policy changes are yet to be confirmed by each authority.

The main change within the Flood Risk context is related to the potential scope of study and the requirements for the Sequential Test. A brief rundown of the main changes are as follows:

  • Paragraph 161 requires all sources of flood risk to be considered as part of applications (i.e surface water flooding, groundwater flooding etc as well as fluvial flooding). This includes the requirement to manage residual flood risk originating from off-site.  Part c of this paragraph adds more emphasis on utilising green infrastructure and natural flood management techniques to reduce the risk of flooding in new developments.
  • Paragraph 162 requires the Sequential Test to consider flood risk from any source, i.e. flood risk posed from surface water, groundwater and artificial sources, rather than just fluvial sources.
  • Paragraph 167b clarifies the definition of a flood resilient development, such that, in the event of a flood it could be brought back into use without significant refurbishment.

The EA climate change allowances have been updated based upon UKCP19 projections to update the peak river flow allowances. There is no change to surface water and tidal allowances. The new allowances use management catchments instead of river basin districts which has resulted in a more specific approach.

In addition, the Flood Risk Vulnerability Classification has now been brought into the NPPF as an Annex, rather than being part of the accompanying Planning Practice Guidance.  As part of this change, solar farms have now been identified as Essential Infrastructure, allowing solar farms to be located in areas at a higher risk of flooding providing that they are designed and constructed to remain operational and safe in times of flood.

With regards to Highways and Transport, the changes do not appear to be as significant compared to Flooding and Drainage.  A brief rundown of the main changes are as follows:

  • Paragraph 106d provides further emphasis on encouraging walking and cycling with “attractive and well-designed” networks and supporting facilities.
  • Paragraph 110c requires the design of transport elements to reflect the National Design Guide and National Model Design Code, which were published earlier this year. 
  • Paragraph 131 has been introduced with the requirement for new streets to be tree-lined, which will potentially have implications on highway designs.
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