William Eichler 24 January 2017

Whitehall ‘missing opportunities’ to tackle ‘ineffective’ flood defences

MPs have accused the Government of ‘missing opportunities’ to act on an environment committee’s report warning of ‘ineffective’ flood management.

The Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee's future flood prevention report, published in November 2016, recommended action to tackle ‘fragmented, inefficient and ineffective flood management’.

The report urged the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to provide greater safeguards and assurances to local communities through stronger planning rules and improvements to flood insurance coverage.

It also called on Whitehall to develop robust long-term plans and to overhaul the governance and delivery of flood risk management.

However, the committee today criticised DEFRA for failing to implement some of its key recommendations, such as requiring local authorities to publish annual summaries of planning decisions approved against Environment Agency advice.

‘People living in areas of flood risk need to be reassured that the Government is acting to improve our disjointed flood management system,’ said the acting chair of the committee, Jim Fitzpatrick.

‘Defra has failed to give sufficient justification for its rejection of our recommendations for important new measures to improve flood protection.’

‘Ministers must give us more detailed information on how the Government is using its £2.5bn flood defence budget to slow the flow of water across river catchments so as to stop communities flooding in future,’ he continued.

‘Ministers must also update us on their actions to ensure that the insurance, planning and building regulation regimes reduce flood risk and improve property resilience.’

Responding to the report, Local Government Association (LGA) environment spokesman, Cllr Martin Tett, urged the Government to devolve control over flood defence funds to councils.

‘The key to protecting communities from the sort of devastation seen last winter is for government to devolve funding to councils, who know their areas best and can most effectively meet local needs,’ he said.

‘Councils make considerable contributions to flood defences yet they have little control over where the money is spent.’

Cllr Tett also called for ‘mandatory anti-flood requirements’ to be included in the building regulations of new homes.

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