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Article 1/3 Planning & Development for Climate Change

Updated: Nov 29, 2020

You may have noticed and even appreciated the hotter and drier summer that we have just had. You will recall countless numbers of people sunbathing during the COVID lockdown on the shores of this Island. This novelty whilst welcome in some respects points to the undeniable fact that as a country we are heating up, our climate is getting warmer and warmer, we are in fact experiencing global warming on our doorsteps. In addition, the MET Office predicts that in the future our winters will be even warmer and wetter.

Reference Article by BBC on 22/10/2020 and Image by PA Media. Click image to access.


3 Extreme Weather Events that you missed this Year!


Increasingly we are experiencing extreme weather patterns. With all that has been going on with the COVID pandemic, 3 significant weather events occurred that you might have missed this year.

  • Firstly we witnessed the wettest February on record,

  • Secondly, we experienced a record sunny May and

  • And on 3 October was the wettest day ever recorded.

Last year in its annual report the Met Office stated that 2019 was the 12th warmest year in a series from 1884. This year has not been an exception to this trend of a warmer climate.


The adverse impacts of extreme weather in the future is likely to place significant challenges on livelihoods, health, infrastructure, and services. No doubt the devastation will be even more pronounced on vulnerable communities and economies both locally and globally.


Wetter UK Winters


In November 2019 we witnessed significant flooding in northern England, where approximately 500 homes were flooded in Doncaster with more than 1,000 properties evacuated in areas owing to rising waters. This included the village of Fishlake where residents have complained about the lack of early flood warnings. This year on 3 October 2020 was the wettest winter day ever recorded.


Hotter UK Summers


In July last year when we recorded the hottest July on record in Cambridge at a temperature of 38.7° C, Dr Mark McCarthy a climate change expert at the Metrological Office stated that "It's not out of the question that we could, at some point, experience a 40-degree 40-degree temperature in the UK. Because of our warming climate, the likelihood of that has increased."


"It's not out of the question that we could, at some point, experience a 40-degree temperature in the UK. Because of our warming climate, the likelihood of that has increased."


This year has been no exception with the record sunny May, that we have just experienced.


And Warmer UK Winters too ...


A new winter maximum record of 21.2° C was recorded on 26 February 2020, in Kew Gardens, London. This was the first time 20° C had been exceeded during the winter season in the UK.


Implications for Future Developments


Future developments will no doubt have to cope with the vagaries of climate change; flooding, heatwaves and drought. The major issue is that we have no way of telling which extreme will occur when or how intense the new extreme weather event will be.


Can future developments be sufficiently designed so that they are robust and resilient such that they are not routinely inundated by flooding from inception or are comfortable to live in during extreme heatwaves?


The Met Office is in the process of developing a tool to help planners prepare for future extremes of rainfall and high temperatures. This is a welcome development, and it is hoped that now climate change will help place higher up the planning agenda. The tool will simulate the climate-induced weather events that would occur once in every 50-year cycle. These projects will be called “relatively high extremes”. Having a usable tool that is accessible to planners is welcome as it creates visibility of the impacts and consequences of climate change.


The bigger question is, "Can new developments be designed and built beyond climate resilience towards climate change mitigation?"


For developments and particularly for strategic sites the main consideration would be what rainfall intensities will this new simulation tool now recommend, how much land take will new SUDS facilities require and how much would this affect the viability of sites and land prices going forward. The bigger question is, "Can new developments be designed and built beyond climate resilience towards climate change mitigation?" Other than highlighting the severity of projected extreme weather events, it will be important to understand exactly what are the deliverables and objectives of this information.



Article 2: 27/11/2020

Evaluating Environment Agency & Lead Local Flood Authority design criteria ...


Against this backdrop in our next post, we will examine the prevailing design guidance and criteria provided both the Environment Agency and Lead Local Flood Authorities for dealing with extreme weather events on future developments. It is notable that on 17 December 2019 the Environment Agency issued new guidance for developers and planners on how to account for climate change in drainage design and flood risk assessments. The article will examine how the prevailing criteria have been administered and how successful it has been in protecting communities and developments.


Article 3: 30/11/2020

Designing for Resilient & Sustainable Developments in the advent of Climate Change


The last article in this series of 3 we will look at how the current climate change design criteria are being applied and discuss innovative design measures that can be used create a more resilient, biodiverse and sustainable development. Particularly this article will demonstrate that beyond the building fabric, the roads, landscape, infrastructure, and services can significantly contribute towards achieving a carbon-neutral development at a more economical cost.


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