MPs from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee are calling for an overhaul of flood management in England to tackle the rising risk to communities from climate change in a report on Future flood prevention.
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee Chair, Neil Parish MP, 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. We propose a radical alternative to the Government’s National Flood Resilience Review’s limited solutions 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 flood water.”
New governance model
The Committee recommends a new governance model: with a new National Floods Commissioner responsible for flood management in England. S/he would agree with the Government strategic, long-term flood risk reduction outcomes and be held to account for their effective delivery via:
New Regional Flood and Coastal Boards coordinating regional delivery of national plans, in partnership with local stakeholders. These Boards would take on current Lead Local Flood Authority and Regional Flood and Coastal Committee roles;
A new English Rivers and Coastal Authority, taking on national flood risk management roles currently the responsibility of the Environment Agency.
Committee Chair Neil Parish MP added:
“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.”
The Committee recognises that it is impossible to protect all properties at all times so calls on the Government to improve help for communities and individuals to cope with and recover from flooding. The report makes proposals for immediate action, in advance of major governance reform, to improve resilience to floods.
Building regulations must be tightened
Neil Parish MP said:
“Building Regulations must be tightened up to help flood proof our properties if a voluntary code is not agreed by the end of this year. Developers who flout planning rules in high flood risk areas must also be penalised.”
The report recommends that:
Developers who fail to comply with planning requirements should be made liable for the costs of associated flooding across a catchment; Water companies should be made statutory consultees on planning applications, and the right to connect surface water to a sewerage system should be removed;
The Government should develop by the end of 2017 a grant scheme for small businesses unable to secure affordable insurance to install resilience measures; and
The Environment Agency and Met Office should develop clearer methods of communicating flood risk by the end of the year. Current descriptions of a ‘1 in x year’ flood risk are confusing.