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Local authorities build up flood management skills

Local authorities’ expertise on flood risk management has increased significantly in the last year, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) surface water team member Roger Orpin has said.

Orpin — who is responsible for improving expertise in leading local flood authorities in the wake of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 — told an ICE East of England flooding conference that local councils’ understanding of the subject had increased dramatically, due to pressure on them to complete a Preliminary Flood Risk Assessment (PFRA) by June 2011 under the European Union Floods Directive.

Orpin said the completion of PFRAs by all lead local flood authorities was an “example of how much can be achieved in a short time”.

“Many local authorities did not know what it was some time ago, but now the job is done,” he said. “[Capacity building] had to speed up. From my perspective that was one of the major achievements we had in the last year. Anecdotally, I do see a lot of local authorities making a lot of progress.”

In November and December, Defra will repeat a survey of local authorities that was run last year, to accurately assess the effect of its expertise-boosting work such as capacity building workshops run by Defra, guidance from the Environment Agency and flood risk management training courses for local authority staff. “We need to know if that is actually delivering,” Orpin said. He said communications expertise was as important as engineering expertise for lead local flood authorities’ new duties under the Flood and Water Management Act.Industry experts feared last year that the PFRA deadline would create a skills crisis for local authorities.

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