The Government does not know if it is making the UK more resilient to flooding warns the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) as it criticised the government for having no overall numerical target for the UK’s level of long-term flood resilience.
The PAC published its report Resilience to Flooding early in January. It contains 7 recommendations for action by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Environment Agency (EA).
The report states that flood protection will be provided for at least 40 per cent fewer properties than planned, according to EA forecasts. This is due to factors including inflation and the bureaucracy associated with approving projects. With the programme’s success relying on the completion of many large projects where the EA has only medium or low confidence of delivering by 2027, the PAC said it is concerned that the number of properties better protected could turn out to be even fewer than the current revised-down forecast of 200,000.
“With the reality of climate change and increasing rainfall, robust flood resilience must of course become an ever-increasing priority. As we have recently seen once again, the depredations caused by such disasters are a matter of life and death for communities up and down the country. This inquiry has uncovered the alarming truth that in a number of ways, the approach to keeping our citizens safe in this area is contradictory and self-defeating, not least in the continuing development of new housing in areas of high flood risk without appropriate mitigations.Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP, Deputy Chair of the Committee.
In 2022-23, there were 5.7 million properties in England at risk of flooding. The PAC’s report highlights a range of concerns in the government’s support and approach to flood resilience, including:
- smaller and rural communities losing out due to a lack of flood protection provision for communities of fewer than 100 houses that can nevertheless be devastated by the impact of flooding
- new housing continuing to be built in high flood risk areas without adequate mitigations, as over half of Local Planning Authorities said they rarely or never inspect a new development to check compliance with flood risk planning conditions
- a lack of necessary leadership and support from government for local authorities on how to address the increasing risks of surface water flooding.
The PAC added that due to a lack of funding, the EA has not been able to meet its target of maintaining 98 per cent of its high consequence flood defences (which protect the most properties) at their required condition and cannot establish what the appropriate balance is between building new defences and maintaining existing ones.
Recent floods in Nottinghamshire showed the impact of flooding on communities, for more on this story read Flood hit communities to get financial help to recover from Storm Henk.