On 27th March 2014, the Bishop of St Albans received an answer to a written question on flooding.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether, in the light of the recent and ongoing flooding, they plan to reconsider their 2010 decision to remove the duty on local authorities to produce climate adaptation plans.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Stowell of Beeston): It is not the case that the Government has abolished any requirement for councils to plan against flooding. Rather, in 2010, the Coalition Government abolished the bureaucratic and ineffective National Indicator Set, which was a series of Whitehall requirements for councils to report reams of data to central government. The National Indicator Set comprised 198 different indicators, as part of a wider set of 4,700 Local Area Agreement targets. The indicator which I suspect the right reverend Prelate is referring to (National Indicator 188), in turn, was accompanied by a 49 page guidance document to councils on how to fill it in. The whole process wasted time and money, and diverted attention away from the frontline.
National planning policy is quite clear that local planning authorities should adopt proactive strategies to adapt to climate change taking full account of flood risk and coastal change. This is underpinned by the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 which requires local planning authorities to include in their Local Plans “policies designed to secure that the development and use of land in the local planning authority’s area contribute to the mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change”.
Additionally, under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 all local authorities have a duty to:
• assess risks in their local area (including those driven by adverse weather conditions) and to work with other emergency responders to develop a Community Risk Register• to plan and prepare for emergencies that might arise from these risks, including plans for preventing emergencies; for reducing, controlling or mitigating their effects in both the response and recovery phases; and for taking other action in the event of emergencies.
In July 2013, the Government published the first National Adaptation Programme. This identifies policies and actions for addressing future risks, and recognises that local government plays a central role in leading and supporting local places to become more resilient to such risks.