The majority of the site fell within an area defined by the Environment Agency as functional floodplain. The appellants produced a masterplan showing that all the homes would be sited above the five-metre contour, placing them within flood zone 1. The council, supported by a third party, claimed that the appellant should have undertaken a sequential test to examine whether areas at a lower risk of flooding were available, despite the agency's acceptance that the scheme would cause no net reduction in flood storage area and the functional floodplain would not be diminished.
The inspector reasoned that the sequential approach is based on the underlying principle of sustainability, so development should be directed towards areas with a lower probability of flooding. She expressed a clear preference for developing on land with a lower flood risk, rather than relying on flood defence and mitigation to make schemes safe. In her opinion, the appellant had not undertaken such an assessment.
She noted the appellant’s claim that a local plan policy allowed discretion in its application where there was no actual or residual risk of flooding. However, while recognising that the water level might only reach the five-metre contour in a one-in-800-year flood event, she considered this analysis unlikely to adequately reflect the impact of wave action and surge tides. Lowering the floodplain to accommodate the development should not be preferred until more benign options had been explored, she concluded.
Inspector: Christina Downes; Inquiry