Let EA rule on drainage – trade association

Responsibility for drainage planning and flood prevention would be better handled by a single body, say water professionals, and it should be the Environment Agency.

But the agency believes trying to get one organisation to cover all the angles is a tall order – and argues that the current system is fit for purpose, provided everybody knows their role and works together.

The Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) says the recent floods – and the heightened risk of more frequent flooding due to climate change – shows a need for dramatic changes in the way homes, businesses and roads are planned.

According to CIWEM the ‘fragmented’ approach to drainage with local councils, water companies, highway authorities and the Environment Agency all having separate roles is no longer appropriate.

“One solution is for the Government to give the Environment Agency responsibility for the oversight of all urban drainage issues and the whole catchment,” said a statement published by the institute.

“CIWEM believes that by giving a single authority, like the Agency, a stronger voice and influence in urban planning decisions, with a presumption of proper investment, our communities will stand a better chance of becoming truly sustainable.”

Nick Reeves, executive director of CIWEM, said: “Let us allow the Environment Agency to have a much stronger voice on all proposals on urban development and housing, including building on land at risk of flooding and on the planning and management of the urban drainage infrastructure.

“Had the Environment Agency had this oversight function from the start, it is possible that the very worst of the floods could have been prevented.

“Climate change is real and we need to be prepared. We must set aside the game of blame and learn the lessons for the future. That way society will be much better prepared for the next extreme weather events.”

The Environment Agency does not share CIWEM’s view, however, insisting that specialist organisations are needed to deal with different aspects of flood prevention and response.

“We do not think one integrated body for flooding is workable due to the huge range of activities involved in each of these bodies [such as] flood defence, post flood support, flood forecasting, public safety and evacuation and a whole range of actions particular to each flood emergency (like water supply management) – and the difficulty in putting this together in one organisation,” a spokesperson for the agency told edie.

“What is important is that each organisation understands its role and that in responding to an emergency there is effective coordination between everyone concerned – which these and previous floods have shown they are.

“This can be achieved without resorting to an expensive and unwieldy structural solution.

“Rivers deliver a whole range of needs for different people – for example water for human use, fisheries, navigation and recreation as well as industry and agriculture.

“The good management of our rivers to ensure all of these activities are balanced can only be achieved through an integrated approach – which is currently what we have with the Environment Agency.”

Sam Bond

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