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EA launches bid for more natural flood defences


The Environment Agency (EA) has published a swathe of data and case studies on the benefits of natural flood management in a bid to boost uptake.

More than 60 case studies on natural flood defence schemes have been published in The evidence behind natural flood management, a guide which the EA hopes will help local authority engineers, flood risk managers and community groups to use more natural flood defence schemes.

Natural flood management usually uses a catchement-based approach, meaning flood risk is managed along a whole river from its source to the sea. It involves soft engineering, for example using soil to help absorb floodwaters.

Different types of natural flood defences such as river restoration are assessed in the guide, which shows what further research is needed for each method. Case studies include a project in Hesketh, Lancashire, where 332ha of saltmarsh was created to provide a 1 in 200 year standard of flood protection for residents.

“I often think improving flood resilience is like a mosaic, many different pieces need to come together to complete the resilience picture,” said EA flood and coastal risk management executive director John Curtin.

“Many of our flood schemes already feature a mixture of hard and soft engineering and natural flood management. It can be a cost-effective and sustainable way to manage flood risk alongside traditional engineering, while creating habitat for wildlife and helping regenerate rural and urban areas through tourism.”

In March the government released £15M of funding for natural flood defence schemes after environmental groups accused it of not taking natural flood defences seriously. Last year £700M had been announced by the government for innovative flood defences but nothing had been earmarked for natural flood management.

WSP director Hamish Hall welcomed the publication but stressed that implementing natural flood management would mean moving away from short-term fixes which rely on built infrastructure.

“Our next challenge is to move this learning into the wider development community,” he said.

“Planners, infrastructure providers and developers need to understand that this approach can be accepted within the planning framework.”

Flood Management Forum

Natural flood defences will be a hot topic at this month’s Flood Management Forum.

On the speaker line up are:

Lydia Burgess-Gamble, principal scientist, Environment Agency, talking about the Working with Natural Processes study


Calderdale’s natural flood management programme with Granville Davies, manager of asset strategy, Yorkshire Water, and chair, Natural Flood Management Group for Calderdale


Slowing the flow at Shropshire with Rhian Townsend, drainage technician, flood and water management team, Shropshire Council

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