Damage caused by recent floods could have been reduced if successive governments had adopted the recommendations of reports into previous flood events, according to leading engineers.
Householders across the UK again suffered widespread property damage after heavy rain last week. Engineers warned that many of the recommendations from the Pitt Review into the 2007 floods and the government commissioned report Learning to live with rivers, published in 2001 have yet to be implemented.
Past ICE president George Fleming, who chaired the Learning to live with rivers commission, said that if the recommendations had been implemented, “we wouldn’tbe in as serious a situation as we are now”.
The 2001 recommendations included a call to adopt design standards based on one in 200-year storms rather than the one in 100-year standard that is still widelyused in England and Wales.
Fleming said that many of the issues raised by his commission had not been addressed by the time of the severe flooding in 2007, which led to the Pitt Review. This then repeated many of the same recommendations.
ICE vice president and MWH executive director David Balmforth also expressed frustration that, five years after publication of the Pitt Review, “the national response in this area is not perhaps where we wanted to be”.
“I would hope that we would have got beyond the planning stage and would be evolving into the implementation stage, and I certainly would have hoped to see more things on the ground,” he said. “We could have done a lot more to improve the resilience of communities over that time period,” he added.
Balmforth acknowledged that improvements have been made in flood forecasting and mapping since 2007. But he said that many of the other recommendationshave been largely ignored.
“We have still not got a comprehensive SuDS standard; there has been no response in terms of the Building Regulations to improve the resilience of buildings - which could have happened; and we’re still not seeing an adequate response to the regulations on reservoirs,” he said.
ICE director general Nick Baveystock also called for more action, saying the widespread floods “serve as a stark reminder that Britain will continue to face the consequences of severe rainfall.
Insurance talks stall
Ministers this week rejected an Association of British Insurers proposal to provide a temporary overdraft facility to a special insurance fund for 200,000 highriskhouseholds.
The insurance industry had suggested that the government could provide the overdraft to pay claims if there were 2007-style floods in the early years of a new insurance scheme before it had built up its reserves (NCE 31 May).
“The severe floods experienced by many areas of the UK this year are a reminder of the rising flood risk facing the UK.
“It is therefore vital that insurers and government tackle this issue together - this is not just a problem for insurers,”said ABI general insurance director Nick Starling.
A Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs spokesman said that talks are “ongoing” and “a range of options are on the table”. Existing arrangements for insurers to provide flood cover run out in July 2013.