Natural management will be central to the government’s approach to flood defences over the next 25-years, a new report has revealed.
The government has pledged to expand the use of natural flood management solutions, put in place more sustainable drainage systems and make at risk properties more resilient to flooding in the 25 Year Environment Plan, published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
A total of £15M was set aside for natural flood management up to 2021 in the 2016 budget, and no further investment was announced in the report. There will be a review of funding needs beyond 2021 with a view to secure more private sector investment, it said.
If there is no further investment for flood defences the number of properties at medium or high risk will rise from 0.75M to 1.29M in 50 years, the report said, and acknowledged that natural flood management needs to be “incorporated alongside more traditional defences”.
Another key point in the plan was the introduction of net environmental gain in new developments. The government said it wants to expand the net gain approaches used for biodiversity, which is a development that leaves biodiversity in a better state than before, to include wider benefits, such as flood protection.
The report recommends the restoration of vulnerable peatlands and large-scale woodland and forest creation as flood management tools. The government backed a plan for new £5M “Northern Forest” - from Hull to Liverpool - earlier this week.
Sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) such as permeable surfaces, storage tanks and ponds, to reduce the risk of surface water flooding will be encouraged and the government said it would consider changes to the national planning policy framework and building regulations.
A voluntary code of practice will be established to encourage consumers and businesses to make properties more flood resilient by the end of 2018.
Prime Minister Theresa May also announced a target to eliminate avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042 and said Brexit would not negatively impact the UK’s commitment to the environment.
Critics said the plan was too vague and the timescale too long after it was launched by May at the London Wetlands Centre in Barnes on Thursday morning. Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas tweeted “[there was] no legislative backing for a set of vague, very long term ambitions.”