National Planning Policy Framework

10. Meeting the challenge of climate change, flooding and coastal change

Paragraphs 93 to 108

93. Planning plays a key role in helping shape places to secure radical reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, minimising vulnerability and providing resilience to the impacts of climate change, and supporting the delivery of renewable and low carbon energy and associated infrastructure. This is central to the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.

94. Local planning authorities should adopt proactive strategies to mitigate and adapt to climate change1, taking full account of flood risk, coastal change and water supply and demand considerations.

95. To support the move to a low carbon future, local planning authorities should:

  • plan for new development in locations and ways which reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • actively support energy efficiency improvements to existing buildings
  • when setting any local requirement for a building’s sustainability, do so in a way consistent with the government’s zero carbon buildings policy and adopt nationally described standards

96. In determining planning applications, local planning authorities should expect new development to:

  • comply with adopted Local Plan policies on local requirements for decentralised energy supply unless it can be demonstrated by the applicant, having regard to the type of development involved and its design, that this is not feasible or viable
  • take account of landform, layout, building orientation, massing and landscaping to minimise energy consumption

97. To help increase the use and supply of renewable and low carbon energy, local planning authorities should recognise the responsibility on all communities to contribute to energy generation from renewable or low carbon sources. They should:

  • have a positive strategy to promote energy from renewable and low carbon sources
  • design their policies to maximise renewable and low carbon energy development while ensuring that adverse impacts are addressed satisfactorily, including cumulative landscape and visual impacts
  • consider identifying suitable areas for renewable and low carbon energy sources, and supporting infrastructure, where this would help secure the development of such sources2
  • support community-led initiatives for renewable and low carbon energy, including developments outside such areas being taken forward through neighbourhood planning
  • identify opportunities where development can draw its energy supply from decentralised, renewable or low carbon energy supply systems and for co-locating potential heat customers and suppliers

98. When determining planning applications, local planning authorities should:

  • not require applicants for energy development to demonstrate the overall need for renewable or low carbon energy and also recognise that even small-scale projects provide a valuable contribution to cutting greenhouse gas emissions
  • approve the application3 if its impacts are (or can be made) acceptable. Once suitable areas for renewable and low carbon energy have been identified in plans, local planning authorities should also expect subsequent applications for commercial scale projects outside these areas to demonstrate that the proposed location meets the criteria used in identifying suitable areas

99. Local Plans should take account of climate change over the longer term, including factors such as flood risk, coastal change, water supply and changes to biodiversity and landscape. New development should be planned to avoid increased vulnerability to the range of impacts arising from climate change. When new development is brought forward in areas which are vulnerable, care should be taken to ensure that risks can be managed through suitable adaptation measures, including through the planning of green infrastructure.

100. Inappropriate development in areas at risk of flooding should be avoided by directing development away from areas at highest risk, but where development is necessary, making it safe without increasing flood risk elsewhere4. Local Plans should be supported by Strategic Flood Risk Assessment and develop policies to manage flood risk from all sources, taking account of advice from the Environment Agency and other relevant flood risk management bodies, such as lead local flood authorities and internal drainage boards. Local Plans should apply a sequential, risk-based approach to the location of development to avoid where possible flood risk to people and property and manage any residual risk, taking account of the impacts of climate change, by:

  • applying the Sequential Test
  • if necessary, applying the Exception Test
  • safeguarding land from development that is required for current and future flood management
  • using opportunities offered by new development to reduce the causes and impacts of flooding
  • where climate change is expected to increase flood risk so that some existing development may not be sustainable in the long-term, seeking opportunities to facilitate the relocation of development, including housing, to more sustainable locations

101. The aim of the Sequential Test is to steer new development to areas with the lowest probability of flooding. Development should not be allocated or permitted if there are reasonably available sites appropriate for the proposed development in areas with a lower probability of flooding. The Strategic Flood Risk Assessment will provide the basis for applying this test. A sequential approach should be used in areas known to be at risk from any form of flooding.

102. If, following application of the Sequential Test, it is not possible, consistent with wider sustainability objectives, for the development to be located in zones with a lower probability of flooding, the Exception Test can be applied if appropriate. For the Exception Test to be passed:

  • it must be demonstrated that the development provides wider sustainability benefits to the community that outweigh flood risk, informed by a Strategic Flood Risk Assessment where one has been prepared
  • a site-specific flood risk assessment must demonstrate that the development will be safe for its lifetime taking account of the vulnerability of its users, without increasing flood risk elsewhere, and, where possible, will reduce flood risk overall

Both elements of the test will have to be passed for development to be allocated or permitted.

103. When determining planning applications, local planning authorities should ensure flood risk is not increased elsewhere and only consider development appropriate in areas at risk of flooding where, informed by a site-specific flood risk assessment5 following the Sequential Test, and if required the Exception Test, it can be demonstrated that:

  • within the site, the most vulnerable development is located in areas of lowest flood risk unless there are overriding reasons to prefer a different location
  • development is appropriately flood resilient and resistant, including safe access and escape routes where required, and that any residual risk can be safely managed, including by emergency planning; and it gives priority to the use of sustainable drainage systems6

See related written ministerial statement on sustainable drainage systems

104. For individual developments on sites allocated in development plans through the Sequential Test, applicants need not apply the Sequential Test. Applications for minor development and changes of use should not be subject to the Sequential or Exception Tests7 but should still meet the requirements for site-specific flood risk assessments.

105. In coastal areas, local planning authorities should take account of the UK Marine Policy Statement and marine plans and apply Integrated Coastal Zone Management across local authority and land/sea boundaries, ensuring integration of the terrestrial and marine planning regimes.

106. Local planning authorities should reduce risk from coastal change by avoiding inappropriate development in vulnerable areas or adding to the impacts of physical changes to the coast. They should identify as a Coastal Change Management Area any area likely to be affected by physical changes to the coast, and:

  • be clear as to what development will be appropriate in such areas and in what circumstances
  • make provision for development and infrastructure that needs to be relocated away from Coastal Change Management Areas

107. When assessing applications, authorities should consider development in a Coastal Change Management Area appropriate where it is demonstrated that:

  • it will be safe over its planned lifetime and will not have an unacceptable impact on coastal change
  • the character of the coast including designations is not compromised
  • the development provides wider sustainability benefits
  • the development does not hinder the creation and maintenance of a continuous signed and managed route around the coast8

108. Local planning authorities should also ensure appropriate development in a Coastal Change Management Area is not impacted by coastal change by limiting the planned life-time of the proposed development through temporary permission and restoration conditions where necessary to reduce the risk to people and the development.

Related guidance: Climate change


  1. In line with the objectives and provisions of the Climate Change Act 2008

  2. In assessing the likely impacts of potential wind energy development when identifying suitable areas, and in determining planning applications for such development, planning authorities should follow the approach set out in the National Policy Statement for Renewable Energy Infrastructure (read with the relevant sections of the Overarching National Policy Statement for Energy Infrastructure, including that on aviation impacts). Where plans identify areas as suitable for renewable and low-carbon energy development, they should make clear what criteria have determined their selection, including for what size of development the areas are considered suitable. 

  3. Unless material considerations indicate otherwise. 

  4. Technical guidance on flood risk published alongside this Framework sets out how this policy should be implemented. 

  5. A site-specific flood risk assessment is required for proposals of 1 hectare or greater in Flood Zone 1; all proposals for new development (including minor development and change of use) in Flood Zones 2 and 3, or in an area within Flood Zone 1 which has critical drainage problems (as notified to the local planning authority by the Environment Agency); and where proposed development or a change of use to a more vulnerable class may be subject to other sources of flooding. 

  6. The Floods and Water Management Act 2010 establishes a Sustainable Drainage Systems Approving Body in unitary or county councils. This body must approve drainage systems in new developments and re-developments before construction begins. 

  7. Except for any proposal involving a change of use to a caravan, camping or chalet site, or to a mobile home or park home site, where the Sequential and Exception Tests should be applied as appropriate. 

  8. As required by the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009