How England’s broken planning system has created (not reduced) the risk of floods

Recent floods in England have been described as unprecedented or even “biblical” events, often with the misguided assumption that they were unavoidable or unpredictable, writes Dr Lee Bosher.

This article first appeared in the Conversation

That is not the case. Over the past few decades, development practice in England has led to more than 300,000 homes being built in high flood risk areas. In this sense, the planning system has actually created (not reduced) flood risk.

The flooding in northern England was indeed extensive, with about 500 homes flooded and more than 1,000 properties evacuated in Doncaster, and major transport disruption across several counties. Subsequent media coverage did highlight the many ways that flooding can be stopped, but key articles tended to focus on typically capital-intensive solutions: flood walls, river embankments, demountable flood barriers or dredging (the benefits of which are highly debatable). The overarching message was that these events are unpredictable and unprecedented, and the only way to properly deal with them is to invest millions in large physical infrastructure.

While these are helpful suggestions, they only address part of the problem. There is another root cause of flooding that appears not to get so much airtime, namely the role of a fractured planning system that still enables developers to build homes in high flood risk areas.


For the full article, visit the Conversation.


Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 19/200

Loughborough University is equipped with a live in-house broadcast unit via the Globelynx network. To arrange an interview with one of our experts please contact the press office on 01509 223491. Bookings can be made online via

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2019 QS World University Rankings, University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2019 and top in the country for its student experience in the 2018 THE Student Experience Survey.

Loughborough is in the top 10 of every national league table, being ranked 4th in the Guardian University League Table 2020, 5th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2019 and 8th in The UK Complete University Guide 2020.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.

Loughborough staff, students and alumni make a real difference. They challenge convention, think creatively and find solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing society today and in the future.

Meet the #LboroGameChangers at