Following the Government's response today to Sir Michael Pitt's review of the summer 2007 floods, the Environment Agency is encouraging all local authorities in England to begin implementing their future role in managing local flood risk.

The Environment Agency has already made good progress in taking on its new strategic overview role for all types of flooding in England, ahead of securing necessary powers in the forthcoming Floods and Water Bill.

Some councils, such as Hull, Leeds and Gloucestershire, have made significant progress in understanding and managing local flood and coastal risk. However, the Environment Agency is today urging all authorities to start implementing their future responsibilities and not to wait for legislation to be passed. Since the floods of summer 2007, the Environment Agency has identified and provided maps of local areas susceptible to surface water flooding, which was the principal cause of flooding to properties. This has helped local authorities to better understand, plan and manage surface water flooding in their locality.

Together with the Met Office, it has also launched a successful Extreme Rainfall Alert (ERA) pilot service to forecast and warn emergency responders about extreme events. The Environment Agency has also made significant progress in a number of other areas focused on by Sir Michael Pitt including: Establishing a new joint Flood Forecasting Centre for England and Wales with the Met Office to combine expertise in weather and flood risk forecasting under the same roof for the first time.

The Centre will provide the basis for an improved forecasting and alert service for emergency responders; Completing 54 new flood defences in England and Wales since June 2007, increasing protection to more than 38,000 homes – including the scheme at Hexham which has protected against flooding twice since completion; Signing up an extra 78,000 properties to its free Flood Warnings Direct service since July 2007; Providing extensive advice to Local Resilience Forums and the operators of critical infrastructure about steps that should be taken to address flood risk at such sites; Working with water utilities and Water UK on a national protocol for sharing data for surface water risk assessments and planning; and Continuing to raise public awareness of flood risk.

The Environment Agency is pleased to see the Government’s continuing commitment to spending on flood and coastal risk management. But we believe that it will need to keep pace with climate change. The Environment Agency is developing a long term investment strategy, to understand what funding is needed over the next 25 years to manage flood risk. We also welcome the recent announcement in the pre-budget report that will see £20 million of existing funding brought forward, enabling work to commence a year earlier than planned on over 70 new projects in England.

Welcoming the Government’s response to Sir Michael Pitt’s report, Environment Agency Chief Executive Dr Paul Leinster, said: “We are pleased that the Government agrees that the Environment Agency is the right organisation to be given the strategic overview role for all types of flood and coastal risk in England. This role will enable us to provide leadership and to coordinate the planning and management of all sources of flood risk. The forthcoming Floods and Water Bill will give us the proper legal tools and clarity of responsibilities to complete the task ahead.

“We have been working closely with Government, local authorities and emergency responders to ensure that we are all better prepared for flooding when it occurs. Individuals and businesses must also take steps to prepare themselves for the risk of flooding.

“We must all acknowledge the real threat posed by climate change and adapt accordingly to protect lives, the environment and the economy. Investment in flood and coastal risk management should continue to rise to help to meet these challenges.”