Flood review reveals need to tackle surface flooding

Fewer homes should be built on flood plains, essential infrastructure must be better protected from flooding and the Environment Agency should take overall responsibility for surface flooding.

Those were some of the 33 recommendations of an Environment Agency investigation published on Thursday into the floods which devastated parts of the UK in June and July.

About 55,000 homes and businesses across the country were flooded this summer following unprecedented levels of rainfall.

The review found two-thirds of these were hit by surface water flooding, which is currently not the responsibility of any UK body and Environment Agency chief executive Barbara Young said it was time this was placed in the hands of her organisation.

She said: “We want to be able to take a national overview to try to provide a standard way to go about assessing this and dealing with it.”

The review also emphasised the need to better protect infrastructure such as utilities and emergency services from flooding, and to reduce the amount of future development on flood plains.

The Environment Agency has committed itself to improving warning systems for floods, but argued that this would be complex, particularly for surface flooding which could not be predicted using traditional methods of measuring river levels.

Chairman Sir John Harman said: “There is a big difference between the present system of warnings and one which is a Met Office type of forecasting.”

Agency chiefs denied that lack of Government funding had been a problem and said their procedures and resources had worked well – with only 0.2% of flood defences failing to perform as expected – and blamed the extent of the damage on the volume of rainfall.

However, they confirmed they are still working towards a target of increasing funding for flood prevention to £1bn.

Ms Young, who described July 23 as the day “the skies fell in”, added that flood risk and management plans must also take better account of the likelihood that climate change will increase the frequency of extreme weather.

Kate Martin

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie