Nicola Dibble has penned the article below following the recent flood events across Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.

A few years ago I was asked to quote for a Flood Risk Assessment at a site in the next village to where I live and have grown up.  It is an area I know really well and I have seen flood more times than I can remember.

The client wanted a report to support a planning application to raise the land in the garden and extend the building to form a café.  “They’ve built flood defences in this area, so it should be fine” the client told me.

There were a number of issues with the plans and the information provided by the client.  Namely that, whist flood defences had indeed been built in the area, the garden is the river side of the flood defence (ie, the side where it floods when the water level rises) and so is not protected by the flood defences and forms part of the functional floodplain.  Raising the levels in this area would, therefore, result in a loss of floodplain storage (which is not permitted), equally building at the existing ground level would result in the building flooding on a regular basis (probably multiple times a year during the winter months).

I politely informed the client, and their architects of this, and recommended that they rethink where they could place the café on the site (ie the dry side of the flood defence, within an existing car park area).  There would still be some serious issues with this revised proposal, as the building would probably need to be integrated into the flood defence, which would make it very expensive both in terms of the build costs and the consents required, but it would at least have theoretical possibility.  They didn’t want to go for this, and asked that I provide a quote for the scheme as they had already designed it.  I offered to do a quote on this basis, but stated quite clearly that the FRA would conclude that the development was not suitable, that I did not think it would pass planning and that the EA would object to the scheme.

In the end, the client went with another consultant who wrote an FRA which said it should be ok (still not sure how they came to that conclusion, even having read their report!)  Lo and behold, the EA objected to the report for the reasons I had advised and the planning application was refused.

I walked past the site on Saturday, about 24 hours after the River had peaked at this location, and took some photos.  The “garden” is under water, and I am stood in the car park which is the “dry” side of the flood defence.  You can quite clearly see what I meant when I said “the site floods”!  Sometimes a client will ask for a report to submit with a planning application, but what they actually want is a report that can support the planning proposals, and sometimes the right answer to the query is “Sorry but no, I can’t do that”.

If you have a site which you are looking to develop, please consider flood risk at an early stage.  Pick up the phone and give us a call and we will happily have a discussion with you and provide a quick review of the site and discuss the likely flood risk implications for the development.  In a lot of cases it is fine and there will be no issues, or if there are potential problems then we will be able to assist with zoning the site to ensure that the development is safe in flood risk terms and suggest possible flood risk mitigation options, if required.  We also won’t be afraid to tell you if we don’t think that a site will be suitable for what you are proposing.  A quick discussion can save a lot of time and work if ultimately, we know that the site won’t achieve the planning consent you are seeking.