CONTENTIOUS flood risk guidance which some councils in Wales feared would thwart regeneration projects might be made more flexible.
The Welsh Government is consulting on proposed changes to the guidance, called Technical Advice Note 15 (Tan 15), which have been welcomed by Swansea Council.
Ministers had planned to bring in Tan 15 in December 2021. It proposed new flood zone designations, and the need to consider flood risk posed by climate change as well as existing flood risk levels. Maps published on behalf of the Welsh Government showed more of the country being at risk of flooding from rivers or the sea than previously.
But just a week before the planned implementation, Climate Change Minister Julie James put Tan 15 on hold for 18 months following concerns from local authorities about its potential impact on development schemes.
Swansea Council, for example, supports development on seven large and mainly low-lying sites in the city, such as by the River Tawe’s Sail Bridge, and has a private sector partner on board to take the concept forward. The flood guidance also had an impact on projects in Llanelli, Carmarthenshire.
The new consultation said: “A careful balance needs to be struck between the need to regenerate our towns and cities whilst recognising the threat posed by climate change.”
It stressed that no change was proposed to the principle that there should be no unacceptable risk to life resulting from new development.
“Nor is the fact that climate change projections must form part of our thinking in the future a subject of this consultation,” it added.
The proposed changes include:
• A clearer recognition that appropriate redevelopment is not incompatible with the overarching principles of Tan 15 which seek to avoid “highly vulnerable development”, such as housing, schools and power stations, going ahead in highest risk areas
• More flexibility regarding less vulnerable development to allow for necessary new infrastructure
• A recognition that redevelopment of existing sites in flood risk areas can take place if carefully planned and include appropriate mitigation measures
Speaking at a Swansea Council scrutiny meeting, development and physical regeneration manager Huw Mowbray said he was pleased with Tan 15’s “direction of travel” and felt there were a lot of positive changes.
A report before the scrutiny panel said the council was awaiting the outcome of the latest Tan 15 consultation before agreeing the next step of its plan – called Shaping Swansea – to build on seven sites. It is also keeping a project for a new public sector hub, shops, restaurants and homes on land between Oystermouth Road and St Mary’s Church in check for the same reason.
A council spokesman said it welcomed the re-drafted Tan 15. He said: “We will be responding to the consultation to ensure the council, and all councils in Wales, in partnership with the Welsh Government and the development sector, can bring forward our priority development schemes that are resilient to flood risk and mitigate future risks from flooding.”
The Local Democracy Reporting Service asked the Welsh Government if the consultation would affect the June 1 implementation date of Tan 15, and was told a decision would be taken once the consultation had closed in April.
Low-lying areas of Wales are home to a large chunk of the population, and an earlier Tan 15 document said the country was expected to become warmer and wetter, with significant sea level rises and an increase in the frequency and intensity of storm events.
“This will increase the risk of flooding and it is also reasonable to expect the incidence and seriousness of flood events to increase,” it said.
The suspension of Tan 15 came with a requirement that councils fully considered the impact of climate change projections on their areas. Ms James wrote to councils when she put the guidance on hold, saying there would be no further delay to the June 2023 implementation.
The letter said: “The decisions local planning authorities make today will have a profound effect on how we adapt to climate change now and in the future.”
It added: “Taking meaningful action to address climate change will mean taking difficult and sometimes unpopular decisions.”