TOUGH government targets are putting huge pressure on the council to allow homes to be built on floodplains, it has been said.

Sir James Bevan, chief executive of the Environment Agency, warned on Tuesday (February 25) that councils should not allow homes to be built in flood-risk areas and that some applications should never have been approved in the first place.

The government wants to build 300,000 homes a year across the first half of the decade in a bid to ease huge shortages across the country.

Several plans have been approved or submitted in Worcester in the last few years either within or very close to high flood risk areas - which, according to the Environment Agency have one per cent or more chance of flooding in a year - including three-storey townhouses in Pope Iron Road near to the frequently-flooded Waterworks Road and Pitchcroft.

Councillor Chris Mitchell, chairman of Worcester City Council's planning committee, said the council was under pressure to build more houses and when its planning committee did turn down applications over flooding concerns, they were often overturned.

“We are under pressure to build houses, which I know we need, but I agree with the Environment Agency cautioning that we shouldn’t be approving properties on floodplains,” he said.

“When we do raise concerns about flooding like at Old Northwick Farm, we are overturned.”

Cllr Mitchell said with limited space in Worcester, many plans were being submitted on the edge of the city.

Already approved plans for homes between Taylor's Lane and Broomhall Way - which form one part of the Worcester urban extension - are next to a risky flood zone

A plan for an 80-bed care home on the site of the city's old park and ride site in John Comyn Drive was put forward earlier this year which is also partially within and next to risky flood zones. The expansion plans for the city's Muslim cemetery would also fall within the high-risk flood zone.

Controversial plans for 62 homes at Old Northwick Farm was rejected by the council's planning committee last year but is still not been decided as it with the government's planning inspectorate.

Plans for up to 495 homes around Navigation Road in Diglis have been provisionally included in the SWDP review which is also next to a high-risk flood zone.

Cllr Mel Allcott, who represents Claines, has raised concerns about the Old Northwick Farm plans in the past.

She said government planning policy was developer-led and profit meant far more than the livelihood of the people living in the homes. Cllr Allcott said the South Worcestershire Development Plan had many flaws and needed a "radical rethink."

"Once applications are submitted, the council's hands are pretty much tied. If objections to applications do not stand up within current planning law, which is developer led, developers simply lodge an appeal," she said.

"The appeal is overseen by the national planning inspectorate, of which the council has no input. Appeals are often won.

"Whether an appeal is won or not, hefty fines can be lodged against the council. In today's financial climate, with council's no longer receiving a revenue grant from April, they cannot afford to take risks.

"Until national planning policy is changed, the situation will continue. People's homes and futures are being exploited and damaged, through the pursuit of profit at any cost.

"Climate change cannot be ignored. The government must address this, in many ways, including planning."

Cllr Louis Stephen said the council should not be allowing homes to be built on land that is likely to flood but tough and rigid government targets, set away from the city, meant the city council was pressured into approving plans to meet a national threshold.

“We definitely shouldn’t be building on land that is likely to flood, especially when flooding is only going to get worse in the future,” he said.

“We have housing targets which have been implemented by central government and it is creating pressure to build houses where they shouldn’t be built.

“We have to make a [housing] plan and in places like Worcester we only have a limited amount of space so there will be increasing pressure on planners."