Cat has again raised Lancaster’s flooding issues in Parliament after local businesses told her they are struggling to find affordable insurance or they have been forced to take insurance which does not cover flooding.
During a Government statement this week Cat had the opportunity to ask a question of Government Minister George Eustice. She raised the issues faced by local businesses on the Lansil Industrial Estate off Caton Road who have this month flooded again in the recent Storm Ciara.
“Businesses on the industrial estate in Lancaster are flooded again and they tell me that they cannot take much more of this,” Cat told the minister. “What support can the Government offer to small family businesses that are often major local employers and that are repeatedly at risk of flooding?”
The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, George Eustice MP replied to Ms Smith saying, “As I made clear earlier, we have stood up the flood recovery framework, and that includes business rate relief and also grants to help our businesses to repair the damage in a way that is flood resilient.”
Many of the businesses which have suffered recent flooding were first affected by Storm Desmond in December 2015. Since then they have experienced regular flooding events with extreme weather causing the River Lune to regularly breaks its banks. Cat has been continually working with local businesses and lobbied successfully for government money which has helped fund the flood defences being built along the south side of the River Lune.
“We know that the climate crisis means that we will see more extreme weather more often, and the consequences will be felt most by the communities that are most vulnerable,” said Cat. “It’s essential the government funds council planning departments properly and toughens up the rules to stop developers building inappropriate housing in high-risk areas such as flood plains. I want the Environment Agency to have more powers to take a more robust approach to halting planned development where there is serious risk of flooding and there should be a new national design guide for building housing in areas at risk of flooding. Sadly, the Prime Minister’s refusal to visit any of the flood hit areas over the last few weeks demonstrates the importance the Government attaches to this issue.”
Conservative cuts to local government have meant that planning departments are have less capacity to scrutinise and challenge applications. The Local Government Association has found that between 2010 and 2020, councils will have lost 60p out of every £1 they had from central government to run local services: https://www.local.gov.uk/about/news/one-three-councils-fear-funding-legal-duties-will-run-out-within-three-years
An Institute for Fiscal Studies report released in November last year showed the stark effect of Tory austerity on planning departments: “Councils’ spending is increasingly focused on social care services – now 57% of all service budgets. This reflects the fact that councils have cut what they spend themselves on housing, transport, planning, and cultural and leisure services by 40% or more per person in order to limit cuts to social care services.” https://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/14563
The Government National Planning Policy Framework and Planning Practice Guidance on Flood Risk and Costal Change are the Government’s principal documents giving guidance to councils on flooding. It does not mandate councils to not build on flood plains, merely requests it https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CBP-7517#fullreport
A recent report by the Committee on Climate Change entitled ‘UK housing: Fit for the future?’ said bluntly: “UK homes are not fit for the future. Greenhouse gas emission reductions from UK housing have stalled, and efforts to adapt the housing stock for higher temperatures, flooding and water scarcity are falling far behind the increase in risk from the changing climate.” https://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/uk-housing-fit-for-the-future/