Lessons learnt from last winter’s floods have helped the UK Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) build a new approach so the nation is better prepared and more resilient to flooding, now and in coming years.

Defra’s National Flood Resilience Review (published 8 September 2016) outlines a plan for Improved rain and flood modelling, a significant increase in new temporary flood defences and greater protection to infrastructure.

Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom said: “We are absolutely committed to reducing the risk of flooding by investing £2.5 billion up to 2021.”

Action plan

The review sets out clear actions so the country is better prepared to respond quickly in the event of future flooding and can strengthen its flood defences. 

The new approach includes:

• £12.5 million for new temporary defences, such as barriers and high volume pumps, at seven strategic locations around the country. By this winter, the Environment Agency (EA) will have four times more temporary barriers than last year.
• Utility companies’ commitment to increase flood protection of their key local infrastructure, such as phone networks and water treatment works, so they are resilient to extreme flooding.
• A new stress test of the risk of flooding from rivers and the sea in England. For the first time, Met Office forecasts of extreme rainfall scenarios will be linked with EA modelling to provide a new assessment of flood risk.

EA Chief Executive Sir James Bevan welcomed the plans, saying: “The extra funding will help us to do even more for local communities so that we can better protect homes and businesses and respond even more rapidly and flexibly when extreme weather strikes."

Nick Baveystock, Director General of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) said: “This report rightly emphasises the need to protect critical infrastructure during extreme flooding so the public, businesses and communities can continue to function. An integrated approach to infrastructure is absolutely key to achieving this level of resilience.”

Long-term view

Baveystock also welcomed the commitment to flood planning beyond 2021. “Managing the effects of severe flooding is an enduring, long-term challenge. So we should ensure we back the commitment to planning with an associated long term capital and maintenance investment programme, recognising that prevention costs are one eighth of those of post flooding restoration. The Autumn Statement provides the Government with the opportunity to set this out and demonstrate that it backs words with action.”

Cross-sector approach

Jon Robinson, Director – Water at engineering consultancy AECOM, commented: “The Review paves the way for a new approach to flood risk management. Ultimately, a more holistic approach that brings together multiple stakeholders working together across entire catchments is needed. Encouragingly, it includes a commitment to an integrated, cross-sector approach to protecting critical infrastructure through closer collaboration between water, telecoms and power companies. This will help develop longer term, permanent improvements in the resilience of service provision to communities in the event of extreme flooding.”

Robinson continued: “While the Review rightly advocates a strategic, long-term approach to flood management, our hope is that funding too will increase in real terms in recognition of its importance.

"Crucially, the Review makes the link between flood management, resilient infrastructure and urban regeneration. It is vital the opportunities to create social and economic value from improved flood management are maximised.”