Flood review calls for urgent changes

Government has been urged to make rapid and fundamental changes to the way the UK is adapting to flood risk by an independent expert appointed to review the 2007 floods.

Sir Michael Pitt made nearly 100 recommendations to try to avoid a repetition of the chaos that deluges in June and July.

Publishing the Pitt Review: Lessons learned from the 2007 floods, Sir Michael said ministers must explain how they will make rapid progress and be held to account on improving the country’s flood resilience.

Among his major recommendations are the establishment of a Cabinet Committee dedicated to tackling flood risk, providing above inflation increases in funding for flood resilience measures, and setting up a National Resilience Forum.

“It is unacceptable that one year on, thousands of people remain in temporary accommodation,” Sir Michael said.

“Research published as part of my report today shows that the risk of flooding continues to escalate, making the events that shattered so many communities last year an ever increasing threat.”

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said part of a £34.5m spending package announced last year would be used to implement some of Sir Michael’s recommendations.

This will include at least £5m for the development of Surface Water Management Plans in high priority areas, and an initial sum of £250,000 to plan a major national floods drill to test the new measures that will be put in place.

“We can never eliminate the risk of flooding, particularly as climate change takes hold,” he said.

“But all of us – Government, water and electricity providers, local communities, and individuals – must take flood risk seriously and be as prepared as we can to deal with it.”

The Met Office and the Environment Agency welcomed Sir Michael’s recommendation for them to work together in a joint centre.

Phil Evans, the Met Office’s chief advisor to Government, said: “The Met Office believes that an integrated approach to issuing flood warnings could provide important benefits.

“These include more consistent, clearer and earlier alerts and warnings to emergency responders, householders and operators of critical national infrastructure, plus an effective means of predicting surface water flooding.”

Paul Leinster, chief executive of the Environment Agency, said: “Sir Michael’s report puts the spotlight back on the need for the country to be prepared and able to respond to the devastating impacts of flooding.

“He covers a wide range of topics – many directly related to our work – and all of which are essential to better protecting people and the environment from flooding into the future.”

Other reactions to the Pitt Review:

George Day, Ofwat’s director of Network Regulation, said: “We will now examine the full set of recommendations carefully and take them into account when we set price limits for water and sewerage companies next year for the period 2010 to 2015.”

CIWEM executive director Nick Reeves said: “The Pitt Report offers us an opportunity to ensure that the chances of a similar occurrence are reduced, that the key organisations dealing with flood and water management are resourced sufficiently and that strong legislation is put in place.”

Stephanie Hilborne, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts, said: “The Government now needs to show strong leadership by adopting Sir Michael Pitt’s recommendations to seriously tackle the increased risk of flooding that we now face as a result of unavoidable climate change. ”

Rosemary Beales, director of the Civil Engineering Contractors Association, said: “A long term investment strategy for flood defences is a great step forward and we welcome Hilary Benn’s commitment to develop one with the Environment Agency.”

David Williams, claims director for AXA Insurance, said: “We would be very keen to help formulate voluntary guidance to cover reasonable expectations of service performance from insurers. AXA would also like to play a part in a National Resilience Forum.”

Kate Martin

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