Single body should manage urban flooding says Environment Agency

The Environment Agency has called for a single national body to be responsible for tackling urban flooding.

The organisation, which is conducting a review into the floods in June and July, criticised the division of responsibility for surface water drainage between a number of different authorities and said urban flooding was not being managed in a coordinated way.

Discussing the early findings of the review, the agency's board said a national body would ensure the development of effective sewerage, drainage and water management plans across the country.

However, it recommended that local authorities should still be responsible for coordinating the response to urban flooding in their area, working with local water companies, developers and the Environment Agency.

Sir John Harman, chairman of the board, said: "Urban flooding is particularly challenging to manage, partly because several different organisations are responsible for different aspects of the problem.

"As the Hull Interim Report outlined, there needs to be one single national body to have responsibility for setting a strategic framework to understand, mitigate and manage urban flood risk."

He added: "It would not be workable to have one national organisation wholly responsible for everything to do with flooding because of the huge range of activities involved before, during and after a flood.

"What is important is that each organisation understands its role and when responding to an emergency, as we saw during the recent floods, there is effective coordination between everyone concerned."

The board also recommended a review and increase of funding for flood defences and an amendment to the draft Climate Change Bill requiring providers of vital public services and infrastructure to take account of the need to adapt to climate change.

The Environment Agency's review, which will finish by the end of the year, is also expected to highlight the need for building regulations to be strengthened to include flood resistance measures and call for the insurance industry to lower premiums for households with better flood protection.

Last month the Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) suggested that the agency should be given a strategic overseer's role to make decisions on everything that could affect flooding, from drainage to certain planning decisions.

At the time the EA said such a role was inappropriate and the current system was fit for purpose (see related story.

Kate Martin



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