£1billion flood defences ‘not enough’ to stop sea detroying homes

The EA is calling for a new approach in addition to spending �1billion per year in traditional flood and coastal defences. ANL-190805-170946001
The EA is calling for a new approach in addition to spending �1billion per year in traditional flood and coastal defences. ANL-190805-170946001

A major, long-term stategy to tackle flooding and coastal change is being launched today as the Environment Agency faces serious threats to the coast posed by a 4°C rise in global temperature.

Just days before a £7m beach replenishment scheme gets underway along the Lincolnshire coast, the EA is calling for a new approach in addition to spending £1billion per year in traditional flood and coastal defences.

We can’t win a war against water by building away climate change with infinitely high flood defences

Environment Agency Chair, Emma Howard Boyd

Over the next 50 years, double the number of properties are expected to be built on the flood plain.

Environment Agency Chair, Emma Howard Boyd has warns “we cannot win a war against water” by building higher flood defences.

Opening an eight-week consultation on the new strategy, she said urgent action is needed to tackle more frequent, intense flooding and sea level rise.

Among the recommendations in the strategy, the Environment Agency has committed to working with partners to develop consistent standards for flood and coastal resilience across the country.

To achieve these standards, communities should have access to a range of tools which give them control of how they prepare for and respond to flooding and coastal change, based on the challenges or flood risk that particular location may face.

These could include traditional defences, temporary barriers, natural flood management, sustainable drainage systems, effective flood warnings and emergency response, alongside designing and adapting existing properties and new development so they can recover quickly from a flood.

Launching the strategy at Brunel University in London, Emma Howard Boyd said:“The coastline has never stayed in the same place and there have always been floods, but climate change is increasing and accelerating these threats.

“We can’t win a war against water by building away climate change with infinitely high flood defences. We need to develop consistent standards for flood and coastal resilience in England that help communities better understand their risk and give them more control about how to adapt and respond.”

Currently, two thirds of properties in England are served by infrastructure in areas at risk of flooding and for every person who suffers flooding, around 16 more are affected by loss of services such as power, transport and telecommunications.

The strategy calls for all infrastructure to be flood resilient by 2050 and the Environment Agency has committed to working with risk management authorities and infrastructure providers to achieve this.

In addition to resilience measures, an average of £1 billion will need to be invested each year in traditional flood and coastal defences and natural flood management. The National Audit Office has previously reported that for every £1 spent on protecting communities, around £9 in property damages and wider impacts is avoided.

As well as taking precautions to prepare for flooding and prevent damage, the strategy calls for more to be done to encourage property owners to ‘build back better’ after a flood. This could involve home improvements to make them more resilient, such as raised electrics, hard flooring and flood doors. The Environment Agency will work with government, insurers and financial institutions to review how to bring about this change by 2025.

Over five million people in England are at risk from flooding and coastal erosion. Yet only a third of people who live in areas at risk of flooding believe their property is at risk. The strategy pledges to build a nation of ‘climate champions’ working with the school curriculum to educate young people about the risk and continuing to develop accessible digital tools to communicate flooding.

The strategy also recommends:

1 As properties built in the flood plain are likely to double over the next 50 years due to population growth and climate change, between now and 2030 all new development must be resilient to flooding and coastal change.

2 Flooding and coastal change projects should support local economic regeneration, unlocking potential for new housing and business.

3 All new development must not only be resilient to flooding but should also contribute to an environmental net gain.

4 Government, the Environment Agency and risk management authorities need to be agile to the latest climate science, growth projections, investment opportunities and other changes to our local environment.

In some cases, the scale of flooding or coastal change may be so significant the concept of ‘build back better’ may not be appropriate. This may mean potentially moving communities out of harm’s way in the longer term.

The Flood and Coastal Risk Management Strategy consultation is due to run from May 9 to July 4.

The following public drop-in events have been scheduled. Registration for these events is not necessary; simply show up on the day.

o Chapel St Leonard’s village Hall; 2-7pm on July 8

o St Paul’s Baptist Church in Skegness; 12-7pm on July 9

o Meridale Centre in Sutton on Sea; 12-7pm on July 11

Once the consultation has closed, the Environment Agency will review the responses and publish a final document which will then be laid before Parliament in winter 2019.