EFRA MPs Demand Major Flood Reforms

UK MPs have called for a root-and-branch review of flood management in England and major reforms to the way it is governed.  An influential parliamentary select committee says that current flood management is “inefficient, fragmented and ineffective”.

Far-reaching changes intended to achieve more joined-up, holistic and catchment-based flood management are outlined in the Future Flood Prevention report by the EFRA (Environment Food and Rural Affairs) committee.  The recommendations include expanding the remit of Water and Sewerage Companies to include land drainage and Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS).

As Water and Drainage Companies they would be statutory consultees on planning applications and they would take on surface water management responsibilities from local authorities.  The right to connect surface water to the sewerage system would be removed and water companies would take on responsibility for adopting SuDS.

The EFRA committee also proposes:

  • A new National Floods Commissioner for England.
  • New Regional Flood and Coastal Boards to co-ordinate national plans, and take on current Lead Local Flood Authority and Regional Flood and Coastal Committee Roles.
  • A new English Rivers and Coastal Authority in a major overhaul of the Environment Agency’s current national flood risk management role.

The Government’s forthcoming SuDS Review should consider how this proposed new role for water companies might incentivise SuDS uptake, says the report.  “The review must also set out, if measures in the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 on SuDS are not commenced, what alternative measures at least equal in strength will be adopted.”

Even before major reform, the report calls for a large scale catchment trial to begin on the effectiveness of natural flood risk management, and a consultation to be undertaken on paying farmers for use of farmland for flood storage.

The report also recommends changing building regulations to make the use of flood resilient materials and products compulsory, if voluntary codes cannot be agreed by the end of 2016. Developers who fail to comply with planning regulations should be liable for the cost of associated flooding across a catchment, says the report.

The report is the conclusion to the EFRA committee’s Future Flood Prevention inquiry which has taken evidence from a broad range of stakeholders since its launch in January 2016.

SuDS role for utilities

South West Water’s Managing Director, Dr Stephen Bird, who gave expert evidence to the Committee, welcomed the call for utilities to play a stronger role in planning decisions.

He said: “This is a well-considered and wide-ranging report.  In particular, we endorse the recommendations to make water companies statutory consultees for planning applications.

“This would mean that water companies can support the delivery of sustainable drainage systems as part of any new development plans, moving away from the current system where developers have the right to connect surface water to a sewerage system despite flooding risks.  These steps would enhance the resilience of key infrastructure and reduce the risk of flooding in the communities we serve.”

 Read the Future Flood Prevention report

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