Assessing the consideration of flood risk by Scottish local planning authorities

Flooding represents one of the key threats facing Scotland’s natural and built environment, communities and economic activity. The planning system has a crucial role to play in ensuring that people, property, infrastructure, and sensitive environmental assets are free from current and future flood risks.

This project assessed how Scottish local planning authorities are implementing national land use planning policies on flood risk. It focused on the two stages of land-use policy: development planning and development management. 16 Local Development Plans (LDPs) were assessed to determine how local authorities have considered flood risk in developing their local plans. Sample case studies from the same local authorities were assessed to determine how planning policies were applied in practice in relation to planning applications.

The study found that the LDP process is effective in applying national land use planning policies on flooding. However, there are opportunities to improve the efficiency of the process. For example, early consultation with SEPA and applying flood risk assessment methods consistently to inform how land is allocated for development could reduce administrative burden in developing LDPs.

While all of the LDPs examined were consistent with Scottish Planning Policy, the study found that local flooding polices are not consistently being applied through the management of development applications. This has resulted in developments in areas at potentially significant risk of flooding.

The report provides recommendations focused on improving the assessment of flood risk, including the impacts of climate change, as well as prioritising to avoid flood risk when allocating land and managing local developments.