Engaging in the planning system can help build communities that are safer from the risks of flooding

This guest blog has been written by Celia Davis, Projects & Policy Manager at the Town and Country Planning Association and Heather Shepherd, Community and Recovery Support, National Flood Forum.

The experience and risk of flooding is already a difficult reality for many people in England, and will become more common in future as a result of climate change. After experiencing flooding, people often become more conscious of their local environment, and sensitive to changes that might increase the risk of flooding. New development is one of those changes that communities may become more aware of.planning system plays a major role in directing where new development will go and how it will be built, and these decisions are crucial to reducing the risk of flooding, both now and in the future.

The planning system should act as a vital safeguard against the risk of flooding by making sure that development is not inappropriately located, or badly designed, so that existing and new communities are not exposed to the risk of flooding.

However, with local authorities under significant pressure to find land for housing, and local authority planning services in a crisis of under-resourcing, new development that is located in flood risk areas, or does not go far enough to reduce the risk of flooding, is still happening. To add to this, the impacts of climate change, which will significantly increase flood risk in the UK, are often underplayed, misunderstood, or ignored. It is frustrating and demoralising to see decisions being taken that do not help to solve these problems – and, in some cases, actively make them worse.

Local communities have unique knowledge of the flood risk in their area, as well as the drive to tackle climate change and create a positive future for the next generation. It is therefore vital for people to get involved in local decisions.

Many people feel locked out of key decisions because the planning system is complex, hard to navigate, and the technical language is off putting. But communities can shape a better future for their area in a number of ways: by sharing expertise, working together on a shared plan for their local area, and by making sure decision makers are properly considering future flood risk when they look at the location and design of new places.

The TCPA are working with the National Flood Forum to help people navigate the planning system, so they feel more confident and empowered to have a voice in the decisions that might affect them.

Our short briefing notes provide a great resource for people who do not have experience of the planning system but are worried about the flood risk where they live.

We are also holding two workshops (in Birmingham and London) to give an overview of the planning system and greater understanding of its role in addressing flood risk, and how communities can influence development in their area.

We want to make sure that people are not put off by the details of the planning system, and feel confident to have their say and make their neighbourhoods better and safer places to live.

The TCPA and National Flood Forum are grateful to Flood Re for their generous support of this work.

Link to workshops:

Our workshops will be held on:

  • 30th November, 6.30-8.30pm, The Priory Rooms, Birmingham, B4 6AF. Register here.
  • 5th December, 5-7pm, TPCA Offices, 17 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AS. Register here.

Link to resources:

The TCPA and the National Flood Forum have produced a guide for communities on the planning system and flood risk which is available here:


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