Last edited 30 Dec 2017

Future flood prevention

On 28 October 2016, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee published Future flood prevention, a report calling for changes to flood management in England to tackle the rising threat posed by climate change.

The Committee is appointed by the House of Commons to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and associated public bodies. It is chaired by Neil Parish, Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton.

In January 2016, the committee launched an inquiry to consider how England can better prevent flooding and improve communities’ resilience when it does flood. It took evidence on how to improve government and public agencies’ ability to:

  • Apply the most effective range of measures to reduce flooding.
  • Predict and communicate flood risk.
  • Increase community resilience.
  • Tackle strategic, governance and funding deficiencies in flood risk management.

The resulting report makes recommendations on a number of specific issues and sets out a possible model to improve overall national and local governance of flood risk management. It suggests that current flood risk management structures are fragmented, inefficient and ineffective, and proposes establishing a new National Floods Commissioner for England, accountable for the delivery of strategic, long-term flood risk reduction, delivered via:

  • New Regional Flood and Coastal Boards, coordinating regional delivery of national plans and taking on Lead Local Flood Authority and Regional Flood and Coastal Committee roles.
  • A new English Rivers and Coastal Authority, taking on the Environment Agency role of delivering national flood risk management plans.

It also proposes that:

Neil Parish said, "Some five million people in England are at risk of flooding. Winter 2015-16 broke rainfall records. Storms Desmond, Eva and Frank disrupted communities across northern parts of the UK, with Desmond alone costing the UK more than £5 billion.

“Our proposals will deliver a far more holistic approach to flooding and water supply management, looking at catchments as a whole. Flood management must include much wider use of natural measures such as leaky dams, tree planting and improved soil management. And some areas of farmland should be used to store flood water."

"Our proposed model would streamline roles and pool expertise to allow bodies to deliver their unique roles. Funding would be firmly linked to outcomes: the Commissioner would hold the new English Rivers and Coastal Authority to account on whether it spends its budgets efficiently - whether by directly undertaking work or by commissioning projects from catchment partnerships or Internal Drainage Boards. New Regional Boards would enable a close link between national plans and local aims."

[edit] Government response

On 24 January 2017, the select committee published Future flood prevention: Government's response to the Committee's Second Report of Session 2016-17. The report criticised the government for not taking up its recommendations and called on the DEFRA to provide greater safeguards and assurance to local communities through stronger planning rules and improvements to flood insurance coverage. It also suggested the government should develop robust long-term plans and fundamentally overhaul the governance and streamline the delivery of flood risk management.

Jim Fitzpatrick MP, Acting Chair of the committee, said:

“Defra has failed to give sufficient justification for its rejection of our recommendations for important new measures to improve flood protection. Ministers must give us more detailed information on how the Government is using its £2.5 billion flood defence budget to slow the flow of water across river catchments so as to stop communities flooding in future. Ministers must also update us on their actions to ensure that the insurance, planning and building regulation regimes reduce flood risk and improve property resilience."

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