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  • by Trevor Loveday

Greenpeace find 7% of England's main flood defences are rated "very poor" by watchdog

More than 4,000 of England’s most important flood defences were rated as poor or very poor following inspections carried out by the Environment Agency last year, according to Greenpeace.


A the report by Greenpeace’s Unearthed journalism team found that the condition of some 3,300 of England’s 64,000 “high consequence” flood defences was rated by the EA in 2022 as poor with nearly 900 others rated as very poor. Most of the rest (57%) were found to be in “fair” with 33% described as good according to the Unearthed report which was based on data acquired under Freedom of Information (FoI) rules.


Unearthed pointed out that while most of England’s main flood defences are maintained by the EA, more than a quarter are privately owned and maintained by unnamed “third parties”. It said the FoI data showed that privately owned defences were nearly twice as likely to be in poor condition with 9% of the total in a poor or very poor condition last year, compared with 5% of assets maintained by the EA.


Unearthed asserted there was “little oversight over privately owned defences, with some local authorities not knowing who owns them and the EA lacking powers to compel owners to properly look after them”.


It said that flooding in the UK currently causes £700m of damage a year, according to the Association of British Insurers. And it cited work by Bristol University and Fathom – a company that assesses flood and climate risk - reported this year and showed that the cat of flood damage could increase by 20% if global warming continues unabated.


Commenting on the Unearthed findings, Greenpeace UK’s senior climate campaigner, Paul Morozzo, said: “By rowing back on its climate commitments and failing to ensure we have infrastructure needed to mitigate its impacts, the government has all but given up on the communities it is supposed to protect. This is a shameful dereliction of duty and will cost votes in the coming election unless Sunak has the guts to change direction.”


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