The Flood and Water Management Bill has finally become an Act of Parliament after gaining Royal Assent yesterday.
The Act will implement several key recommendations of Sir Michael Pitt’s Review of the Summer 2007 floods, protect water supplies to consumers and protect community groups from excessive charges for surface water drainage.
“Legislation has been enacted to protect communities from flooding and to improve the management of water supplies,” said the Queen in her statement to Parliament.
The legislation will mean flood risk management strategies and guidance will be issued; drainage systems for all new developments will need to be in line with new National Standards; all sewers will be built to agreed standards in future so that they are adopted and maintained by the relevant sewerage company; and a new risk-based regime for reservoir safety will be brought in.
Provisions of the Act include:
- New statutory responsibilities for managing flood risk – there will be national strategies and guidance on managing flood risk in England and Wales. Unitary and county councils will bring together the relevant bodies, who will have a duty to co-operate, to develop local strategies for managing local flood risk.
- Protection of assets which help manage flood risk – the Environment Agency, local authorities and internal drainage boards will be able to ensure that private assets which help manage the risks of floods cannot be altered without consent. For example, putting a gate in a wall that is helping protect an area could increase the risk of flooding.
- Powers to carry out environmental works – the Environment Agency, local authorities and internal drainage boards will be able to manage water levels to deliver leisure, habitat and other environmental benefits.
- Sustainable drainage – drainage systems for all new developments will need to be in line with new National Standards to help manage and reduce the flow of surface water into the sewerage system.
- New sewer standards – all sewers will be built to agreed standards in future so that they are adopted and maintained by the relevant sewerage company.
- Reservoir safety – the public will be protected by a new risk-based regime for reservoir safety. It will reduce the burden on regulated reservoirs where people are not at risk, but introduce regulation for some potentially risky reservoirs currently outside of the system.
- Water company charges – there will be protection against unaffordable charges for surface water drainage for community groups such as churches, scouts and others. Future water company charges can include social tariffs for those who would otherwise face difficulty meeting their bills.
- Protection of water supplies – there will be wider powers for water companies to control non-essential domestic uses of water in times of drought.
- Other protection for water company customers – there will be new powers to reduce the level of bad debt, new arrangements for managing very risky infrastructure projects which could be a threat to the ability of the water company to provide its services, and updated arrangements for administration of water companies should they get into difficulties.