Two recent reports on Flooding which should interest Canvey Island residents have been released. The first by the BBC commenting on the House of Commons Environment and Rural Affairs report on the system for managing Floods.
The second by the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, addresses how the HoC findings may impact upon residents ability to obtain House Insurance once the Flood Re scheme has run its 25 years course.
MPs also want to tighten up rules for developers, who, they say, can walk away from flood problems they have caused.
Major reform of the system for managing flood risk is needed, a Commons environment and rural affairs committee report has said.
There should be a UK floods supremo, new flooding and coastal boards and a rivers and coastal authority, it said.
MPs said floodwater should be stored on agricultural land, urged tougher rules on house builders and stricter standards on repairing flooded homes.
The government said it saw no need for organisational change.
The MPs disagree. They are unhappy with the Environment Agency’s recent performance over flooding and want to see it stripped of powers, which would be handed to the proposed new bodies.
This is the latest in a number of reports triggered by last winter’s devastating floods in the north of England.
The government has published two reports on flood resilience, and the environmental audit committee has also reported – calling for more government long-term planning on flood defences, and better maintenance.
The Committee on Climate Change has warned that flooding has a domino effect on infrastructure.
The report from the Environment and Rural Affairs committee is by far the most drastic.
The MPs conclude that in the light of climate change and the increased risk of torrential rain, the current organisational framework for dealing with floods is unfit.
They think a new national floods commissioner is needed to co-ordinate flood-related policy across governmental departments, reporting to the Cabinet Office.
The MPs also want new regional flood and coastal boards to organise regional delivery of national plans, in partnership with local groups and authorities.
They also urge the creation of a new English Rivers and Coastal Authority, taking on current Environment Agency roles.
The committee’s chairman, Neil Parish MP, said: “We propose a radical alternative to the current fragmented, inefficient and ineffective flood risk management arrangements.
“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 floodwater.”
Critics may wonder how the environment department Defra, already struggling under severe job cuts and wrestling with the seismic implications of Brexit on the countryside, could envisage such a massive organisational reform at this time.
Some of the MPs’ recommendations, though, are less controversial. They support the fashionable idea of catching water in the uplands to prevent floods lower down the catchment, as demonstrated in Pickering in Yorkshire.
The Centre for Ecology and Hydrology cautioned about limited evidence that such natural schemes would mitigate flooding from very extreme events on a large catchment scale.
So the MPs want a large-catchment trial to test natural methods like upland bunds and leaky dams.
The MPs are critical of the Environment Agency for what they see as its over-reliance on traditional “hard” flood defences.
They are keen for farmers to be offered incentives to store floodwaters on their land. They note that the damage cost of flooding fields is far lower than for flooding towns.
Their report says: “Artificial land drainage, deforestation and urban development have increased the amount of water that runs off the land into rivers. Urban development has encroached upon floodplains, and river channels have been narrowed and straightened.
“Farming methods have had particular impact: currently around 70% of UK land is used for agriculture, and some farming practices can reduce soils’ ability to store and drain water.
“Changing land management practices combined with increased rainfall mean that the likelihood of flooding is now at an all-time high and will continue to increase.”
The MPs also want to tighten up rules for developers, who, they say, can walk away from flood problems they have caused. They want the right of any home to connect surface water run-off to a mains sewer to be discontinued. New developments should be landscaped in such a way that takes care of their own run-off, they say.
Another idea is for insurers to be allowed to upgrade properties when they are flooded so they don’t get flooded again. Currently they are simply allowed to re-instate what’s already there.
A Defra spokesperson said: “We take a long-term, strategic approach to protecting the nation from floods.
“A huge amount of work has been undertaken as a result of the National Flood Resilience Review, including £12.5m investment in new mobile defences, such as barriers and high volume pumps.
“This means homeowners will be better protected this winter than last, as will much of our critical infrastructure.
“This is part of the £2.5bn we are spending on building flood defence schemes across the country to better protect an additional 300,000 homes by 2021, bringing an end to year-on-year fluctuations in spend.
“We are already implementing many of the suggestions this report makes, such as managing watercourses across entire catchment areas.”
“Climate change and increased building on flood plains have made the UK flooding problems worse in recent years. Extreme weather is increasingly common and more severe than previously.”
Increased spending on flood defences is not enough to solve flooding problems
The Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA) has today released a report on the future of UK flood policy. The report coincides with the release of the report today on ‘future flood prevention’ by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee.
The IFoA sets out three recommendations for government in the context of the Flood Re insurance scheme for homeowners in flood prone areas:
More needs to be done to ensure that flood defences are strengthened while the Flood Re scheme is in place. Flood Re is a temporary measure rather than a long term solution. If high risk of flood persists, insurance will continue to be unaffordable for those living in high risk areas.
Increased spending on flood defences is only part of what is required to ensure homes and businesses are sufficiently equipped to cope with future flooding. More joined up thinking between government, environmental organisations, planners, homeowners and the insurance industry is necessary to help manage the risks associated with flooding.
Government should create a workable, proactive, long-term strategy for dealing with flood risk. This means dealing with the root causes of flooding. A strategy needs to be implemented that recognises the changing nature of flooding and the impact of more frequent and extreme weather.
Colin Wilson, President of the IFoA, comments,
“Climate change and increased building on flood plains have made the UK flooding problems worse in recent years. Extreme weather is increasingly common and more severe than previously.
These issues, combined with the UK’s lack of investment in flood defences, have created a perfect storm.”
“The reinsurance scheme for homeowners, Flood Re, will be operational for 25 years. The scheme will go some way to creating a breathing space for government to implement more resilient flood defences. However increasing spending on flood defences is not enough. Government must also use this time to put in place a proper strategy that incorporates all stakeholders to manage flood risk. While flood risk remains high, homeowners will struggle to find affordable insurance after the Flood Re safety net is removed.”