Flood and water management provisions lagging says government as others stall

Defra has in a recent report, proposed a March deadline to local flood management authorities in England that have not yet fulfilled one of their “key responsibilities” – to complete a strategy for flood risk management. Meanwhile there seems to be little government will to start provisions on sustainable drainage or mandatory landlord liability for water bills.

As of March 2016 more than a quarter of the Lead Local Flood Authorities (LLFAs) set up under the 2010 Flood and Water Management Act still had not completed and published their flood risk management strategies according to the government’s post legislative scrutiny of the act published this week. It said while 114 of the 152 LLFAs had completed their strategy 26 were consulting on a draft while 12 had not even reached the consultation stage. “Progress in producing these strategies has been slower than anticipated,” said Defra.

In the scrutiny report Defra said it would “consider using its statutory powers to instruct another risk management authority to complete [the strategies]” of LLFAs that had not dome so by 31 March this year.

The report also noted that the Environment Agency and Defra will be seeking to draw up, with the Department for Communities and Local Government, a new measure to record the quality of maintenance and development of LLFA local flood management strategies from April 2017. This measure would replace current way to record whether strategies are complete.

Debra said it “believes that most LLFAs are demonstrating leadership in the management of local flood risks.” But it went on to say: “The level of improvement varies by area and some LLFAs have yet to fully deliver their statutory responsibilities. As LLFAs mature in their role, increase their understanding of the flood risk in their area, and continue working in partnership, we would expect this improvement to continue.”

Meanwhile, provisions in the ACT that have been left dormant include Section 32 and Schedule 3 on sustainable drainage. A review of the planning system as it applies to the provision of SUDS in developments to fulfil the requirements of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 is underway.

But other than that the paper simply restated both the practical guidance Defra has contributed since 2010 – for instance technical standards for the design, maintenance and operation of surface water SUDS – and the strengthening of planning policy in April 2015 to ensure SUDS are “provided in new major developments where appropriate, and that clear arrangements are in place for ongoing maintenance over the lifetime of the development”. The document reported stakeholders concerns around implementing Schedule 3, “including that housing supply could be negatively impacted”.

Regarding Section 45 on charges and non owner occupiers, the government did not signal any intention to mandate that landlords must provide information on their tenants to water companies. While the Welsh Government has gone down the mandatory route, in England landlords can volunteer this information via the data portal developed by Water UK in December 2014. The policy paper said Section 45 would be kept under review, but that the government “remains mindful of placing new burdens on businesses, especially the small and micro businesses that represent the majority of landlords”.