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Young: we need better flood defence

Environment Agency chief executive Barbara Young this week vowed to use the forthcoming Climate Change Bill to force the UK’s owners and operators of critical public infrastructure to invest in proper flood defences.

The recent summer flood, she said, highlighted that many private sector utilities and local authorities were under-prepared for the impact a major flood event might have on the delivery of critical services.

She added that despite having a legal requirements and responsibilities to plan in the event of a major flood, power and water utilities plus other local services were still relying on the Environment Agency to plan for them.

“The sort of event that we saw in July is the sort of event that will become increasingly frequent,” she explained.

“They have got a legal responsibility to plan for contingencies. We want to underline that by getting a clause in the Climate Change Bill that says that they have a responsibility to plan for adaptation to climate change and we want an overview role to ensure that they did.”

Young said that the Environment Agency had identified the amount of “critical public infrastructure” in vulnerable areas on the flood plain and it was, she said “a big number”.

She cited infrastructure such as roads, railways, electricity distribution stations, sewage treatment works, water works, police stations, fire stations, hospitals, health centres and schools as vital to maintaining the fabric of society.

“What we are pushing for is that the responsibility that each of these providers has for its own resilience actually gets pressed home,” she said.

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