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London relies on "pure luck" for flood protection

London’s vulnerability to surface water flooding must be reduced, because it is currently only protected against a serious flooding event by “pure luck”, a new report from the London Assembly has said.

London mayor Boris Johnson should press forward action to address the serious risk of flood damage and loss of life London faces if there is severe rainfall, the Assembly said.

The report said London has so far escaped widespread flooding due to “chance” alone. It said awareness of flooding among Londoners is “patchy”.

Environment Committee deputy chair Darren Johnson said: “It is pure luck that London has so far escaped the kind of flooding that devastated other parts of the country in 2007, and we know that climate change makes severe rainstorms more likely in the future.

“Londoners need to be better informed about flood risk and the Mayor must lead on ensuring everything possible is done to protect people’s homes and businesses.“

The For a Rainy Day report called on the mayor to help assess and communicate the risk of surface water flooding, support practical measures to reduce flood risk, and identify and secure funding from a wider range of sources to cut London’s flood risk.

The report by the Assembly’s Environment Committee warned that, if London gets rainfall similar to that which caused flooding elsewhere in the UK in 2007, some streets could flood within minutes and rivers soon after.

Lives could be lost and damage to property could amount to tens of billions of pounds, the Assembly said.

In London, local boroughs and the City of London are responsible for surface water and small watercourses. Main rivers and tidal water are within the remit of the Environment Agency.

However the report says the Mayor has an important role in ensuring these bodies are effective and is well placed to increase action in key areas through his direct powers, leadership and influence.

The capital is particularly susceptible to flooding because it is so built up and water quickly gets into drains and rivers.

Once these are full, water floods across the land’s surface putting up to 680,000 properties in the capital at risk from surface water flooding, said the report.

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