182,000 English households now better defended against flood risk, says EA

Since the floods of 2007, 182,000 households in England are now better defended against flood risk – more than a quarter of those in the East of England.

The figure exceeds the three year government set target by 37,000 homes – a report published by the Environment Agency reveals.

In addition, a record number of properties in the highest flood risk areas are now registered on the free national flood warning service.

One in six properties in England is at risk from flooding, and the Environment Agency is urging all homeowners and businesses to visit www.environment-agency.gov.uk/flood to check their flood risk and to sign up for free river or coastal flood warnings.

More than 300 flood defence schemes across the country were completed or upgraded in the past three years by the Environment Agency, local authorities and internal drainage boards. These included large schemes in Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire which, together  with many smaller schemes, has helped to lower the risk of flooding with a total of £240m being spent in the region.

In addition, money has been made available through local authorities to help individual home flood surveys and protection.

The Environment Agency’s report also shows that the number of homes and businesses signed up to its free flood warning service has almost quadrupled nationally to 1.1 million from just 300,000 in 2008. As a result, the percentage of eligible high-risk properties signed up is now at almost 60 per cent – having risen from just 14 per cent in 2008.

In the East of England over 175,000 more households receive a direct warning from the free service, compared with 2007.

The extension of the organisation’s flood warning service was one of the key recommendations from the independent Pitt Review into the summer 2007 floods. The Environment Agency is also continuing to expand the number of areas in the country that are eligible for its free flood warning service.

Other achievements detailed in today’s report include:

• 98 per cent of planning decisions in flood risk areas took full account of Environment Agency advice on flood risk
• Work has begun (and in many cases has been completed) to restore 34,000 hectares of habitat in Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), against a target of 24,000 hectares

Dr Paul Leinster, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, said:

“Many communities are at lower risk of flooding from rivers and the sea as a result of major improvements to defences. We’ve completed more than 300 new flood schemes since 2008, increasing protection to more than 182,000 households.

“We continue to reduce flood risk through better flood warnings and improved plans to respond when flooding does occur.

“However, the reality is that flooding can’t be totally prevented. More people are becoming aware of the risks a flood might pose. Everyone should check the Environment Agency’s website to see if their house is in a flood risk area and to find out what simple steps they can take to prepare for flooding such as signing up for free river and sea flood warnings.”

Richard Benyon, the Floods Minister, said:

“We want to reduce the threat of flooding and the anxiety it brings for as many people as we can. I’m pleased that the Environment Agency has reduced the threat of flooding for thousands of homes over the last few years and I am determined to see this progress continued.

“An easy way to improve your flood protection is to be better prepared, which is why I encourage those at risk to continue to sign up for the Environment Agency’s free flood warnings.”

Around 5.2 million properties in England, or one in six properties, are at risk of flooding. More than five million people live and work in the 2.4 million properties that are at risk of flooding from rivers or the sea, one million of which are also at risk of surface water flooding. A further 2.8 million properties are susceptible to surface water flooding alone.

The Environment Agency has a major role to play in dealing with this threat from rivers and the sea: it manages close to 6,000km of flood defences and 1,400km of sea defences. It also takes a strategic overview of all sources of flooding including those managed locally, such as surface water and groundwater flooding.

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