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Annual £1bn flood spend needed to win 'war against water'

Leeds flooding 2007

Environment Agency chair Emma Howard Boyd has called for £1bn per year to combat the “war against water”. 

The Environment Agency has launched a consultation searching for new ideas of combatting floods, in response to the threat posed by a 4°C rise in global temperature which will lead to more frequent, intense flooding and sea level rise. 

Howard Boyd has claimed that “we cannot win a war against water” by just building higher flood defences and called for a new approach to ensure communities are resilient to the threat of flooding posed by climate change. 

In the Draft National Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy, the agency calls for communities at risk to have access to a range of defences and preventative measures including; traditional defences, temporary barriers, natural flood management, sustainable drainage systems, and more effective flood warnings. 

The draft strategy also highlights that two in every three homes in the UK is served by infrastructure which is at risk from flooding. For every person flooded, around 16 more are affected by loss of services such as power, transport and telecommunications. 

The strategy calls for all infrastructure to be flood resilient by 2050 and the Environment Agency has committed to working with risk management authorities and infrastructure providers to achieve this. 

An average of £1bn will need to be invested each year in traditional flood and coastal defences and natural flood management on top of existing spending to protect communities, the agency claims. 

Howard Boyd said: “We need to develop consistent standards for flood and coastal resilience in England that help communities better understand their risk and give them more control about how to adapt and respond.” 

National Infrastructure Commission chair John Armitt added: “In many cases, we won’t be able to stop flooding and coastal erosion. But that doesn’t mean we should just accept it. We must ensure that communities are resilient and as our Assessment showed, this is affordable and achievable.” 

The Flood and Coastal Risk Management Strategy consultation is due to run from 9 May 2019 for eight weeks until 4 July 2019. 

Mott MacDonald global flooding leader Fiona Barbour said better flood resilience should be a core part of new builds. 

“Mott MacDonald welcomes the comments from Emma Howard Boyd in today’s consultation launch, as it clearly points out the fact that our current approach to build walls higher to try to prevent flooding is not sustainable against the predicted climate change. Clearly we need to be prepared to manage the flooding that occurs and build in more property resilience,” she said.  

“Redevelopment is sometimes the key to reducing the impact of flooding to existing communities at risk of flooding. This can be through rerouting flood water away from residential properties and introducing resilient design to non-residential buildings and allowing them to flood where there is no other option. Mott MacDonald has been faced with the frustration of working with developers trying to promote flood resilient developments but blocked by policies that state “no development should be allowed in flood plains” which prevents the redevelopment from going ahead.” 

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