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Experts call for drastic change in flood policy


DRAMATIC CHANGE in flood prevention policy is needed if a repeat of last winter's devastation is to be avoided, members were told at the Thames Valley presidential visit last week.

Government flood prevention policy and funding follows a cycle from complacency to emergency and back again, claimed HR Wallingford technical director Paul Samuels. As a result funding levels fluctuate dramatically, making it impossible for engineers to put in place and maintain proper levels of warning and defence.

'We need to break this cycle with sustainable flood defences, reducing damage but improving our preparedness for floods, ' he stressed.

Homes, businesses and prime agricultural land worth an estimated £214bn are at risk from flooding in England alone.

ICE president Joe Dwyer visited Howbery Park, Wallingford to learn how experts from HR Wallingford, the Environment Agency and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (Wallingford), are working to minimise the impact and cost of this flooding.

'When we talk about flood protection, we traditionally think of large banks and barriers, but this is only part of the story, ' explained HR Wallingford managing director Stephen Huntington.

'Flood warning, storage, development control and methods of making buildings more flood resistant are also important, ' he said.

The Environment Agency's new flood warning system, introduced in September 2000, was tested in earnest last winter.

Despite widespread flood damage the Agency claimed advanced warning gave many people in areas at risk vital time to prepare and limit the water's potential impact.

'Prevention is better than cure', said the Agency's Thames Region manager Craig Woodhouse, 'so think before we plan, before we build is a wise maxim for new developments.'

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