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Lack of flood strategy becoming a competitive disadvantage, say MPs

Increasing flood risks could deter businesses form investing in the UK, MPs have warned.

The all party Parliamentary group for excellence in the built environment said the lack of a clear overarching water management plan could have severe economic consequences for this country.

The group said in a report published this week that at least one in six UK buildings was at risk of flooding.

The report, Living with Water, called for flood risk management to be given the same priority by the next government as big-ticket transport schemes.

“Despite the ever increasing challenges, flood resilience and water management still remains a Cinderella issue at the highest political level, though its importance is no less than that of transport and power infrastructure and needs to be given the same priority as High Speed 2,” says the report. “Failure to take the issue of comprehensive water management much more seriously will have severe economic impacts on UK plc.

“Flooding is not a singular or isolated event. It affects many aspects of society and it carries economic risks that will increase as climate change marches on. As the associated risks to business increase under a minimalistic national plan, then the threat of them locating outside the UK becomes more likely,” says the report.

The report says infrastructure is at risk in the same way as buildings, and calls for the next government to make it clear who is in charge of reducing this threat.

“There appears to be no government leadership, and no one single department or minister has overall responsibility for a strategy and vision for water management as a whole or for flooding across all of the domains in which it occurs,” says the study.

The group also called for the industry to step up flood risk management.

“Professionals must play their part, too, in greater collaboration and knowledge sharing, to aid improved communication and integrated water management, so as to create and support multifunctional, multi-beneficial and sustainable places.

“If we are to properly prepare for what climate change throws at us, we need an honest, open debate and engagement with the public, both to educate households and communities in how they can build water resilience into their properties, but also to agree what level of water exceedance is acceptable.”

The report urged whichever government is elected in May to consider a range of actions including appointing a Cabinet champion to drive a longer term vision for delivering a co-ordinated long term flood and water management strategy.

The report urged whichever government is elected in May to consider the following actions:

  • Appoint a Cabinet champion to set in train a longer term vision for delivering a co-ordinated long term flood and water management strategy. Ringfence funding to do so
  • Instigate a review of land use policy, placing water and climate change alongside a range of other emerging priorities for a multi-functional landscape
  • Create a public debate to find clarity on what level of disruption the country finds acceptable as a result of water exceedance
  • Launch a high profile programme to inform and educate the public on the importance of making homes flood resistant and resilient, and to manage expectations about water and living with it
  • Find more cash for maintenance to ensure that existing flood protection assets are sustained
  • Undertake an investment programme to retrofit towns and cities to make them more resilient, as an additional aspect of their flood defence spending
  • Promote better design standards to reduce water runoff from every building, whether new or existing – helped with new Building Regulations for designing for flood resistance and resilience
  • Use insurance to incentivise resilience – including using Flood Re insurance to drive a step change in households’ protection and resilience
  • Consider how to protect those who cannot afford flood insurance
  • Ensure a bigger role for professionals in the built environment through a new Construction Industry Council grouping

 

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