A LOCAL authority which is facing pressure to take more account of residents’ views over planning controversies has defended the way it does not consider “local knowledge” during flood risk assessments of potential building sites.

North Yorkshire County Council’s transport, economy and environment scrutiny committee heard the authority’s hands are tied by the government’s National Planning Policy Framework, which sets out how planning policies for England are expected to be applied.

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The concerns have been raised following several parish councils and numerous residents accusing the council of disregarding the legitimate concerns of local people.

While objections to planned developments over flooding are among the most common concerns raised by local residents, they are rarely given much weight by any of the county’s ten decision-making planning committees in favour of the “expert” conclusions of the county council in its statutory flood risk assessments.

The meeting heard as part of a revised flood risk strategy, the council was looking to give a greater role to communities in managing flood risk as well as improve knowledge and understanding of flood risk and management responsibilities for communities.

Yorkshire Dales councillor David Staveley told the meeting as chair of spatial planning at Craven District Council “all too often” residents would highlight sites as being prone to flooding and questioned whether there could be more community engagement during the assessment process.

He said: “I think we have to pay a little bit more attention when we are making flood risk assessments, going forward with the new policies, to what the communities says, because it does seem that we are in a position where developers are able to put sites in incredibly risky positions.”

Cllr Staveley said there needed to be a strong tolerance over flooding on potential building sites.

Officers told the meeting the council, as the lead local flood authority, had a very well defined role within the National Planning Policy Framework about what it could take into account.

They said when giving its views over planning applications the authority was limited to looking for possible additional risks due to a development which would exacerbate drainage issues.

An officer said the current system was fit for purpose as the authority was giving engineering input and residents had a chance to voice their views during the planning process about applications.

However, she added: “When we are undertaking flood risk investigations what we often find is that there are two new houses built in a historic gap in a village – it’s always those houses that flood and it’s that local knowledge that’s why there was a gap in the village in the first place.”

“We can’t look at communities’ opinions on whether or not that development is a risk. We have to look at the flood risk assessment and the information that is submitted to us through that process. So if we have got a historical risk and we have undertaken an investigation there we can factor that in but we can’t say Mrs Munro at number six says this is a heightened risk.

“The developer has to demonstrate to us that they are providing a drainage system that can cope and we look at this in huge amount of detail.

“As statutory consultee we are giving impartial officer advice based on the submission of the developer - that is all we able to do.”

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