Advice for the general public

Our role is to provide advice to planning authorities on development plans and in relation to larger planning applications that could have an impact on the environment or planning applications that might have implications for flood risk. 

Planning authorities must ask SEPA for advice on a planning application if, for instance, they consider the development proposal might increase flood risk or it is supported by an Environmental Impact Assessment. If you are submitting a planning application you can look at the ‘advice for developers’ page which provides links to guidance on the types of issues you may need to consider.  We have provided Standing Advice for lower risk developments. Whilst this has been prepared for planning authorities so that they do not need to consult us directly on certain types of planning application it can also help developers gain an understanding of the issues they may need to consider early on in the planning process.

Flood risk and planning

We can all have an impact on the personal flood risk we face. This can include being more prepared for flooding or making changes to our properties which might reduce or increase the risk of flooding by changing how water travels across surfaces and is stored.

To find out if you live in an area at risk of flooding please visit SEPA's flood maps.

In a small number of cases, we may advise a planning authority against granting planning permission due to concerns related to flood risk that cannot be reasonably addressed. We may also set out conditions which would have to be met for planning permission to be granted. In reaching planning decisions the planning authority must balance all material considerations, including flood risk.

Our role is to act as an independent advisor on flood risk. If a planning authority decides to grant planning permission, even if SEPA has raised concerns about flood risk, they must notify Scottish ministers who have the powers to ‘call-in’ the application for their determination.

There may be some forms of works you wish to undertake near water that do not require planning permission but may be regulated by us under the Water Environment and Water Services (Controlled Activities) Regulations 2011 (or ‘CAR Regulations’). In such circumstances we would recommend that you refer to our CAR Standing Advice on Flood Risk.