CIWEM calls for blue belt land to contain flood waters

CIWEM - the Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management  has called for the creation of 'blue belt' land in flood plains to contain flood waters.

Blue belts would be areas where development would be severely restricted or banned altogether, much like in greenbelt areas, to make room for flood waters and minimise risk to people and property.

A new national agency would have to be created with responsibility for flooding and coastal management as well as the power to designate blue belt land, with local authorities as the implementing bodies responsible for carrying out flood and erosion risk management works, the institute says.

The comments were made following a conference of more than 200 experts and an extensive consultation (see related story). In England and Wales, ten per cent of the population live with the risk of flooding. The economic value to homes and businesses at risk is over £220 billion.

"Planning priorities and processes must be changed to reflect environmental reality. At present we're seeing demand driven development that will require ever-increasing flood defences and mean misery for millions of householders and businesses," said Nick Reeves, CIWEM's Executive Director. "It is entirely wrong that at present, if the Environment Agency's objections to developing on a floodplain are ignored it is possible for construction to proceed, giving rise to properties that may become a threat to health and life, as well as uninsurable in the longer term."

Despite most cities and towns having some degree of flooding problem, CIWEM has identified good practice in towns such as Ashford, Kent, which highlighted floodplains on maps soliciting opinion on where new development should go, severely deterring consultees. In addition, the City Council of Worcester was singled out for making such strenuous efforts to prevent or strictly control development in the floodplain.

By contrast, CIWEM highlights much of the governments 'Sustainable Communities Plan' for the south-east of England as lying within floodplains, putting the ODPM and Treasury driven project in direct conflict with the Environment Agencys aim of avoiding development in high risk areas.

CIWEM also highlights action in countries such as the Republic of Ireland and Canada where the government encourages relocation of settlements outside of flood risk areas with suitable compensation paid from the government funds.

The governments consultation, 'Making Space for Water', which aims toward a new flood risk strategy for England, closed on the 1st of November and a new strategy is expected soon.



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