Hard line on flood risk sequential test

31 Oct 2023

An appellant failed to benefit from the recent High court judgment in Wathen-Fayed v SSLUHC [2023] confirming that inspectors have discretion whether to apply the sequential test required by national flood risk policy. The appellant drew attention to the judgment which identified relevant factors to be taken into account in applying this discretion, such as the view of the local lead flood authority (LLFA), the advice of a flood risk assessment and the strategic flood risk assessment, as well as conditional controls.

The appellant proposed to erect a house on a site within flood zone one, at low risk from river and sea flooding, but Environment Agency mapping showed that the site was subject to surface water flooding equating to a low-to-medium level of risk. However, on the basis of finished floor levels and a surface water drainage system secured by condition, the LLFA did not object to the scheme (400-042-678).

Unfortunately for the appellant, the inspector noted that the Wathen-Fayed judgment related to a previous version of PPG that had been superseded by an amended version making clear the sequential test is the most effective way of addressing flood risk by placing the least reliance on property-level resilience features, and the judgment therefore had limited relevance. Revised PPG sought pragmatism but only in respect of minor development such as small extensions and not new houses.

The inspector concluded that the NPPF flood risk policy sequential test should be applied to the proposal and as no assessment of potential alternative sites had been demonstrated by the appellant, the test had not been satisfied and the appeal was dismissed.

Ministerial flood risk planning guidance and the application of the sequential test in practice is explored in DCP 4.1652.