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Sequential and exception tests

As part of any flood risk assessment, it is expected that a sequential test is completed, and where appropriate an exception test is completed.

Sequential test

For some developments, a sequential test may be required as part of an FRA (Flood Risk Assessment).

The sequential test ensures that a sequential approach is followed to steer new development to areas with the lowest probability of flooding. It requires the applicant to compare the site they are proposing to develop with alternative sites that are ‘reasonably available’.

When undertaking a sequential test, the following questions must be addressed:

  1. Are there sites available in the area that are sequentially preferable (in a lower flood risk zone) – This is often shown as a table of sites;
  2. Can it reasonably accommodate the development you are looking to provide?
  3. Is a site available? And is it for sale?

And this must be accompanied with a written justification that the application site passes the sequential test.

At Leicester City Council, the sequential test:

  • Is applied to the development area in which the proposed development resides, and not the whole city.
  • Must take into consideration flood risk from all forms of flooding (Main River, Ordinary Watercourse, Surface Water, Sewer, Groundwater and artificial sources) not just the flood risk from Main Rivers.  

The ‘Development areas for conducting the Sequential Test for Flood Risk’ in Leicester can be viewed on the Flood risk map. To do this select the check box ‘Development areas’ in the legend of the left-hand side of the screen under section titled ‘General Admin’.  

For a detailed explanation on when to apply and complete the sequential test, please see the national guidance 'Sequential test for applicants' and 'Sequential approach to the location of development' quick links above.

Please also consult the Planning policy evidence base (under quick links) when undertaking sequential and exception tests, as this provides a wealth of local planning policy considerations. In addition, a copy of Leicester City Council’s Local Plan is available for download on: Adopted planning policy.

When reviewing alternative sites as part of the sequential test please consider the following:

  1. Sites of ten units or more can be identified from the council’s Strategic Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment (SHELAA).
  2. Sites of under ten units cannot readily be identified from the current SHELAA. Applicants wishing to pursue a proposal on such a site may instead gather evidence for a Sequential Test by consulting local property agents’ listings. A minimum of two property agents should be consulted
  3. You must determine whether the site is ‘reasonably available’, which means it is ‘deliverable’ and ‘developable’ as defined in National Planning Policy Framework - Annex 2: Glossary - Guidance - GOV.UK. In addition to be considered ‘reasonably available’ the site:
    • Must be located in the same development area as the proposed development.
    • Is of comparable size and can accommodate the requirements of the proposed development.
    • Is either; owned by the applicant, for sale at a fair market value or is publicly owned land that has been formally declared to be surplus that is available for purchase.
    • Is not safeguarded in the Local Plan for another use.
    • Must not have planning permission for a development that is likely to be implemented.

It is important to note that all development needs to manage and mitigate flood risk, even if it is determined that a sequential test is not required.

Exception test

After completing the sequential test it may be concluded that an exception test is required as part of an FRA.

The exception test requires the applicant to demonstrate:

  • How flood risk on your proposed site will be managed.
  • How the sustainability benefits of the development to the community outweigh the flood risk.
  • That the development will be safe for its lifetime taking into account the vulnerability of its users and the impacts of climate change.
  • That the development will not increase flood risk elsewhere.

And this must be accompanied with a written justification that the application site passes the exception test.

In order to determine whether you’re required to undertake an exception test you must identify which Flood Zone (Table 1: Flood Zones) the proposed development resides and the proposed developments Flood Risk Vulnerability Classification. Then compare these against Table 2: Flood risk vulnerability and flood zone ‘incompatibility’.

For a detailed explanation on when to apply the exception test, please see the national guidance using the 'Sequential test for applicants' and 'Get more information on the exception test' quick links above.

Right to appeal

You have the right to appeal, if your sequential and exception test are not accepted and your planning application is refused. For further information: Planning and development: Planning permission and appeals - detailed information - GOV.UK.