Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Flood challenges

A South West perspective on integrated flood management.

We all remember the floods of 2007, which affected hundreds of thousands of people and resulted in huge personal and national costs.

They have shaped the future of our flood defences, through the subsequent Pitt Review and Flood & Water Management Act 2010.

Under the Act, local authorities must now provide strategic management and co-ordination of local flood risks. Lead Local Flood Authorities have been established to fulfil these responsibilities, and they will need continued support from the Environment Agency and the Department of the Environment Food and Rural Affiars (Defra) to help ensure that they attract sufficient investment to make our communities more resilient.

The Act also facilitates the transfer of responsibilities for flood risk management, resulting in the sharing of expertise and a wider range of solutions at a more effective cost. In the South West, the Environment Agency recently issued 14 flood warnings in the space of one week for the coastlines of Cornwall, Devon and Somerset, due to the combination of heavy rain, gales and high tides.

The Cornish towns of Looe and Mevagissey, Kingsbridge in Devon and Weston-super- Mare in Somerset have all been affected, leading to the cancellation of train and ferry services in some areas.

This is unfortunately becoming familiar to us. In winter 2010, towns and villages were cut off and major road and rail routes were closed after the River Fowey burst its banks.

The A30, A38 and A390 were blocked at many points and train services into Cornwall were suspended. Events such as this of course affect our economy, especially in a peninsular region where every transport link is vital.

The £3M scheme closed its flood gates for the first time last month and successfully protected over 600 properties from high tides

It is clear that we need a fully integrated approach to flood risk management, ensuring the right skills are available to decisionmakers and operational leaders, covering everything from coordination, partnerships, communication and data sharing to project management strategies and operational decision making.

A combination of steps that includes defence and urban design, the reinstatement of flood plains and emergency management measures all working across administrative boundaries are key to minimising future risk.

The tidal flood defence in Teignmouth on the south Devon coast is a good example of the type of key infrastructure ICE believes is crucial to managing flood risk. The £3M scheme closed its flood gates for the first time last month, although not officially launched until 2 November, and successfully protected over 600 properties from high tides.

The Teignmouth scheme works in conjunction with the £13M Shaldon and Ringmore flood defence scheme, which was also used for the first time. Both schemes are unusual because they use swing doors operated by volunteers.

As the Environment Agency states, every £1 invested in flood and coastal erosion risk returns, on average, £8 worth of benefit. This can be achieved if we adopt a range of initiatives that are not solely reliant on conventional flood defence measures.

  • Trish Johnson is ICE South West regional director

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Please note comments made online may also be published in the print edition of New Civil Engineer. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.