In May this year, the Environment Agency launched its National Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management strategy (National Strategy), warning that the country must prepare for the worst on climate change.
The strategy called for a new approach to resilience in our communities, stating that we cannot ‘win the war against water’ simply by building higher flood defences.
Julia Beeden, Chair of The Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT)’s Flood and Water Management Group talks about the group’s work.
ADEPT’s Flood and Water Management Group works together with a wide range of stakeholders to develop policies and to find innovative ways to resolve flood and water management issues. With an estimated 3.2 million properties at risk of surface water flooding across England, it’s a growing risk and a large focus for the group.
Sharing and developing best practice underpins ADEPT, for example:
There is no single body with responsibility for managing flood risk: instead, responsibility is shared among multiple organisations and partners, working across a number of sectors.
Understanding assets, ownership, roles and responsibilities is therefore complex and working collaboratively is critical. In addition, there are very specific challenges around surface water – it is often highly localised and unpredictable.
The key piece of legislation that gave local authorities a lead role was only introduced in 2010, with the Flood and Water Management Act.
This designated upper-tier councils as Lead Local Flood Authorities (LLFAs), with a statutory responsibility to coordinate the management of surface water flood risk. Lower tier councils already had responsibilities linked to flood risk management through their local planning authority role, powers to do works on watercourses and their role in emergency planning and recovery.
Local authorities clearly have a pivotal role to play, which can be broken into three key areas: building climate-resilient places, increasing resilience in our infrastructure and building resilient communities.
This means our entire nation has a part to play, it isn’t just about the public sector working in isolation.
Planning is clearly one of the fundamental areas where the lower tier local authorities can make a difference.
All infrastructure needs to be much more resilient, and to achieve this infrastructure providers and local planning authorities need to understand flood risk and the impact development has on other areas.
A local authority’s role goes deeper than this though, as it is also about existing communities, making sure they thrive.
When flooding occurs in an area it also affects education, social care and public health provision – these are all areas for which upper tier authorities have responsibility.
People need to want to live in an area, as this has a huge impact on the local economy and business development.
Supporting communities to prepare personal and community flood plans is also an important step in creating resilience and managing flood risk.
This involves bringing relevant agencies together with a community to create a plan, and sets out practical actions to respond quickly when flooding occurs.
These plans often strengthen working relationships with residents and businesses, who can be a local authority’s ‘eyes and ears’ on the ground.
An important part of ADEPT’s role is around influencing government policy.
Defra’s Policy Statement on Flood Risk Management is due for publication this winter and we need it to be ambitious.
We all need to take action now to minimise and adapt to the impacts of climate change and would welcome a policy statement that supports the National Strategy’s ambitions.
We also need a wider legislative framework, where water management is more integrated.
This is about creating multiple benefits from schemes and adopting a more adaptive approach, for example designing flood balancing ponds for water resources and strengthening water quality benefits of Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS).
In local authorities, planning, transport, highways and emergency planning need to support cross sector management – we can only solve this if the policies work together.
Finally, we need to ensure that cross-government working enables alignment of policy areas, so that all government functions are involved in planning for resilience.
This is vital in delivering a climate-resilient future and a resilient economy for our country.
Photo Credit – Pixabay