MPs unveil flood protection overhaul to include diluted EA and farmer incentives


The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee has warned that government proposals for flood resilience “will not rectify fundamental structural problems.” The committee has proposed a “root and branch review” of the management of England’s flood risk to include incentives for farmers to store flood water on their land, an extension of water firms’ role as water drainage companies and a new governance regime that displaces the Environment Agency.

The committee, in its report, Future Flood Prevention, condemned as incoherent current flood management: “Ministers must take a fresh look at the governance and delivery of flood risk management and develop plans for a robust, long-term approach. Despite Government assurances as to the adequacy of its policies, we consider national flood management to be fragmented, inefficient and ineffective in meeting the level of threat that flood risk poses to communities across England.

“Ministers must take a fresh look at the governance and delivery of flood risk management and develop plans for a robust, long-term approach. Despite Government assurances as to the adequacy of its policies, we consider national flood management to be fragmented, inefficient and ineffective in meeting the level of threat that flood risk poses to communities across England.

The committee proposed a new governance model for flood management that would “streamline roles and pool capacity and expertise to allow bodies to deliver their unique roles, with funding firmly linked to outcomes.”

The new model included a new National Floods Commissioner for England, to be accountable for delivery of strategic, long-term flood risk reduction to be delivered by new Regional Flood and Coastal Boards that would would take on current Lead Local Flood Authority and Regional Flood and Coastal Committee roles.

Also under the proposed new model, a new English Rivers and Coastal Authority, would take on current Environment Agency roles “to focus on efficient delivery of national flood risk management plans.”

In broadening water firms’ parts as Water and Drainage Companies the committee has proposed they should take on the land drainage responsibilities currently held by local authorities, to create “a more holistic approach to flooding and water supply management.”

It urged flood risk management bodies to better their understanding of the contribution that sustainable drainage systems (SUDs) can make to protecting communities from flooding. And it called on Defra to ensure that SUDs are deployed to maximum effect in all new English developments.”

In a radical move the committee proposed exploiting opportunity arising from Brexit to place flood management “at the centre of any new support schemes for farmers that replace the Common Agricultural Policy.” The MPs pressed Defra to consult by July 2017 on an incentive scheme to pay farmers tomato land available for storage of flood water in the long and short terms. They urged the farmers’ union to develop, by the end of this year, a model for evaluating land management that reduces flood risk

“We recommend that Defra consult by 2017 on new governance arrangements and changes to delivery body roles to allow the development of coherent, long-term flood risk management plans which can better meet the increasing challenge of protecting communities from flooding,” said the environment committee.