Planning and development

Whilst it is important to manage existing flood risk, it is vital that we do not add to the overall risk by failing to deal with issues arising from new developments. We are working with relevant partners to ensure the best solutions are implemented by developing a greater understanding of the needs across the county and providing guidance to developers. This page provides links to resources on planning, development, flood risk and related planning requirements.

For drainage enquiries please email

Planning authorities

The planning system regulates the way in which land is used by:

  • producing strategic plans
  • producing local plans which set out the type and location of developments that will be permitted in an area
  • operating a development management system to process planning applications, and to ensure that proposed developments meet the requirements of the local and strategic plans.

More information relating to planning authorities and their responsibilities can be found under the Planning Service and Development Management web pages.

Planning policy

Planning policy ensures that inappropriate new developments are prevented in flood risk areas and any proposed development is directed away from areas that are at higher risk. Further information on planning and flood risk can be found on the Environment Agency’s website.

For more information about sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) and development, see our Sustainable Drainage webpage.

Critical Drainage Areas

A Critical Drainage Area (CDA) is an area that has critical drainage problems and which has been notified to the local planning authority as such by the Environment Agency in line with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). In these locations, there is a need for surface water to be managed to a higher standard than normal to ensure any new development will contribute to a reduction in flooding risks in line with NPPF. These higher standards are determined by the Environment Agency.

Applications should be considered in accordance with policies in local plans, follow the sequential test outlined in the National Planning Policy Framework and take into account CDAs and the available surface water mapping.

There are currently 23 CDAs identified in Devon. Maps and details of these CDAs can be accessed below or viewed on our Environment Viewer (interactive map).

There are also CDAs in Plymouth and Torbay, any planning applications that are located within the Plymouth or Torbay Council administrative area will be dealt with by the relevant council.

Last Updated: August 2019