MPs from the Environmental, Food and Rural Affairs Committee have called for an overhaul of flood management in England.
The Future flood prevention report urges a major shake-up in flood management, including the establishment of a new National Flood Commissioner responsible for flood management in England, new regional flood and coastal boards, and a new English Rivers and Coastal Authority.
It also recommends that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) publish its 25-year plan for reducing flood risk by the end of 2017.
The report comes after the government published its National Flood Resilience Review in September.
“We propose a radical alternative to the government’s National Flood Resilience Review’s limited solutions to the current fragmented, inefficient and ineffective flood risk management arrangements,” said Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee chair Neil Parish.
“Our proposals will deliver a far more holistic approach to flooding and water supply management, looking at catchments as a whole. Flood management must include much wider use of natural measures such as leaky dams, tree planting and improved soil management. And some areas of farmland should be used to store flood water.”
The report also demands better communication with the public, stating that “current descriptions of a ‘1 in x year’ flood risk are confusing” and calls on the Met Office and the Environment Agency to develop clearer solutions by the end of the year.
“We take a long-term, strategic approach to protecting the nation from floods,” said a Defra spokesperson.
“A huge amount of work has been undertaken as a result of the National Flood Resilience Review, including £12.5M investment in new mobile defences, such as barriers and high volume pumps. This means homeowners will be better protected this winter than last, as will much of our critical infrastructure.
“This is part of the £2.5bn we are spending on building flood defence schemes across the country to better protect an additional 300,000 homes by 2021, bringing an end to year-on-year fluctuations in spend.
“We are already implementing many of the suggestions this report makes, such as managing watercourses across entire catchment areas, but see no need for structural changes.”
Around 5M people in England are currently at risk of flooding. Storms during the winters of 2015-16 broke rainfall records, while Storm Desmond is estimated to have cost around £5bn alone.