Government announces flood risk reduction target

2nd December 2014


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  • Adaptation

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Alex Cooper

Long-term investment and better management processes will reduce flood risk by 5% by 2021, the government said today.

The new target was included in an announcement by the environment department (Defra) outlining how it planned to spend £2.3 billion on flood risk management over the next six years.

The money had been previously announced, but details on how it would be spent and managed have now been set out in a new strategy, together with a list of projects that will be funded.

The six-year time-frame of the strategy and investment is a marked change to how flood risk was previously managed, when the Environment Agency allocated funding annually. The longer time-frame will result in greater efficiency, for example, by allowing suppliers to package projects together and achieve economies of scale, Defra said.

Greater efficiencies will reduce costs by at least 10%, the department claimed. These savings will be reinvested, allowing more projects to be bought forward, it said. The Environment Agency is to consult regional flood and coastal committees on which scheme will benefit from this investment.

The agency is to make several changes to how it manages its flood risk management work, according to Defra. For example, the agency will share its pipeline of work with industry, group schemes into more efficient programmes of delivery, and provide targeted support for its local area teams and local authorities to help them deliver projects.

Defra estimates that funding from the private sector and local communities will increase to over £600 million over the lifetime of the programme. Contributions could come from a number of sources, including developers in planning contributions, and retailers or utilities wishing to protect assets.

Daniel Johns, head of adaptation at the Committee on Climate Change called the spending plan “truly impressive”. He praised the strategy for including surface water flooding, which he said had previously been ignored.

“The six-year plan does something no government has done before in pledging to reduce the net level of flooding,” he said. “It’s not just a pie-in-the-sky target, they have listed 1,400 projects that will be funded.”

However, he cautioned that most of the households who will see flood risk reduce were those that were at low risk. There is likely to be an increase in households at medium or high-risk of flooding due to the impact of climate change and continuing development on flood plains, he said.

The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) criticised Defra’s approach, which it said focussed on capital investment to the detriment of annual maintenance to reduce local flood risk, such as weed and vegetation trimming, and silt removal from rivers.

Spending on this type of work has reduced by 6% in the past five years in real terms, according to a report by the National Audit Office. Jed Ramsay, rivers and coastal treasurer at CIWEM, said: “The continuation of this policy will result in ongoing degradation, which will then cost a great deal more to restore.

“Timely appropriate spending is not only better in maintaining appropriate levels of flood risk but also is environmentally better and cheaper in the long term,” he said.


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