Hall: Measurable approach to flood risk "essential"

Commission responds to PAC report which says government's flood strategy undermined by lack of clear target against which to measure progress.

Published: 17 Jan 2024

By: Rob Mallows

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Flooded bridge

The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee has warned that the continued lack of a national standard for flood resilience is undermining government’s efforts to boost the country’s resilience to sea and river flooding.

Its new report Resilience to flooding also raises concerns that inflation and excessive bureaucracy will reduce the number of major flood risk management projects planned for delivery by the Environment Agency by 2027, noting that the number of properties that will be better protected in that period could be lower than the current forecast of 200,000 (itself revised down from 336,000 properties). In response, the Committee calls on government to set a national flood resilience target for England and Wales to better determine the progress being made.

Professor Jim Hall of the National Infrastructure Commission said in response:

“We share the Committee’s view that a more strategic, long term and measurable approach from government to flood risk is essential. The Commission has recommended that government should set a clear target for reducing flood risk, and report regularly on progress. In our National Infrastructure Assessment we have also recommended that all new developments are resilient to flooding from rivers with an annual likelihood of 0.5 per cent for their lifetime, and emphasised the need for funding to help households prepare for floods and recover faster.

“While Storm Henk led to dramatic river flooding, we also need to manage risks from flooding from surface water. Implementing Schedule 3 of the Floods and Water Management Act as soon as possible to make sustainable drainage the default for new homes and reduce surface water flooding risk should be a priority.”

The second National Infrastructure Asssessment published in October 2023 recommended government set a long term, measurable target to reduce the number of properties likely to be flooded by rivers or the sea, using the Environment Agency’s National Flood Risk Assessment 2 to measure progress against it. It also recommended maximising the use of nature-based solutions and catchment areas, which bring additional benefits beyond flood mitigation, and adequate funding for wider resilience measures to help household plan for, and recover from, any flood.

The Assessment also called for progress on measures to reduce the risk of surface water flooding, including controlling the growth of impermeable surfaces, identifying areas at higher risk and setting long term targets to reduce the number of properties at risk, with joint plans managed by flood authorities to deliver the necessary reductions in risk.

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