Memorandum submitted by the Environment
1.1 Since 14 September 2000, parts of England
and Wales have experienced repeated flooding, with the most widespread
flooding for more than sixty years in the first two weeks of November.
These caused widespread disruption and misery for thousands of
people. Fortunately, loss of life has been minimal. In February
2001, a "Lessons Learned Report" for these recent floods
will be published by the Agency.
1.2 This review by the Committee is timely
and is welcomed by the Agency. In September of this year, we completed
the Action Plan resulting from the Midlands flooding of Easter
1998. This culminated in the launch of new flood warning codes
on 11 September 2000. Details of the Action Plan and flood warning
codes are given in Annexes A and B respectively (not printed).
1.3 In our response to the Committee's Report
in 1998 we identified a number of specific actions. Here we offer
a concise summary of progress. This is then elaborated, with the
Agriculture Committee recommendations shown in bold and italics.
1.4 The Agency remains convinced that there
is an urgent need to streamline flood and coastal defence institutional
and financial arrangements for flood and coastal defence to achieve
a more efficient, effective and better value for money service
that can deliver long term sustainable policies.
1.5 The Agency does not support the Committee's
proposal for administrative arrangements that would implement
all inland Flood Defence policy by Regional Flood Defence Committees
and all coastal flooding and erosion policy by Coastal Groups.
1.6 The Agency response to the Committee
in 1998 stated it would:
1.6.1 Work with Government on:
a review of National criteria to
assess how rationalisation of Flood Defence Committees may best
awaits outcome of funding
to determine how the Agency's supervisory
and enforcement role may be strengthened.
a statement has been issued
with Government support and implemented;
the development of asset management
plans on a nationally consistent basis by all operating authorities.
after consultation, Government
has set a High Level Target;
the production of national guidelines
for funding priorities for Flood Defence Committees.
the Agency has given guidance
to Flood Defence Committees;
the production of a revised Project
Appraisal Guidance Note to include social and environmental criteria.
a Research and Development
project is to commence shortly, funded by the Ministry of Agriculture,
Fisheries and Food;
the development of minimum standards
of performance for all involved in flood defence.
not addressed by the Project
Appraisal Guidance Notes.
1.6.2 Work with the Association of Drainage
Authorities (ADA) on:
the rationalisation of Internal Drainage
Districts through consortia or amalgamations based on national
progress has continued;
improved partnership arrangements
on day to day service delivery.
progress has continued.
1.6.3 Work with Local Authorities on:
improved partnership arrangements
on scheme promotion to maximise the potential for procurement
the Agency has focused on
grouping its efforts to achieve best value procurement.
1.6.4 The Agency believed Government should:
consider providing clearer and stronger
guidance against development on the floodplain.
new Planning Policy Guidance
25 to be published in December;
local authority planning departments
to enter into Section 106 agreements with developers.
to be encouraged by new PPG25;
seek to streamline the administration
of flood defence.
encourage Regional Flood Defence
Committees and Local Flood Defence Committees to provide the necessary
funding for flood warning, flood risk mapping and the River Defence
This has been successful but
at the expense of capital works;
develop proposals to better educate
the public on the roles and responsibilities of organisations
involved in Flood and Coastal Defence.
Two Public Awareness campaigns
run at a cost of £2 million each;
ensure Ministerial priorities are
met consistently and to agreed timescales across the country.
achieved with some delay;
develop a firm but fair, active supervisory
clear statement issued and
Committee recommendations relating to the existing
fragmentation of policy responsibility/institutional change
Recommendation z, o, k, l, m, p, s
2.1 As a condition of the recent Government
Spending Review, which provided increased allocation of funds
to flood defence, a review of the financing of flood defence commenced
in September 2000. The Agency believes it is logical for this
to be completed before any review of Flood Defence Committees
2.2 The Agency believes that the review
of funding arrangements is needed to ensure that it can cope with
the significant additional funding required (£100 million
pa extra) and by the potential increasing frequency of flooding
due to climate change, which will create an even greater investment
2.3 The Agency is currently the subject
of a Financial and Management Policy Review by DETR as part of
the normal five year cycle for NDPBs. This will include consideration
of the arrangements for both sponsorship and delivery of flood
defence by the Agency.
2.4 The recent flooding has increased awareness
of the interaction of the Agency and of flood defence with:
Town and Country Planning
Emergency Planning and Response
As well as environmental and heritage issues.
2.5 The widespread and extreme flooding
in Yorkshire, and on the Medway in Kent, highlighted the need
for integrated management of both rivers and tidal waters during
flooding. We remain convinced that they should not be separated.
2.6 The Agency acknowledges that Internal
Drainage Boards (IDBs) continue to provide a good service in lowland
areas whose communities and local economies depend on good drainage.
MAFF introduced a target for IDB Administration in November 1999
as part of a suite of measures under the High Level Targets for
Flood and Coastal Defence. The Association of Drainage Authorities
(ADA) were to produce and distribute to IDBs guidance on the means
by which efficiency can be improved through amalgamation and consortia
by 1 June 2000. In reality the 247 Boards are now served by 68
management units, 8 less than when the Agriculture Select Committee
met in 1998. A further 15 Boards are in the process of amalgamating
down to 4.
3.1 The Agency has regrouped all its capital
works management in a single national unit. This has been linked
to the adoption of modern best practice for capital procurement
and is yielding better value to the Agency. This grouping is also
enabling the development of expertise and a career structure.
3.2 Where a Local Authority is not able
to sustain the necessary skills in house, the Agency believes
there would be benefits in this expertise being available to act
on behalf of the Local Authorities.
3.3 To promote greater awareness and co-operation,
a joint working group has been established with the Local Government
Association (LGA) as part of the published five-year Plan of Co-operation
with the LGA.
3.4 The Agency continues to provide considerable
technical support to the Association of Drainage Authorities,
which gives guidance to Internal Drainage Boards.
4.1 In response to both the Agriculture
Select Committee and the Independent Review (Bye Report) of the
Easter Floods 1998, the Agency published the elaboration of its
Flood Defence Supervisory Duty. This is directly linked with the
MAFF High Level Targets, published November 1999.
4.2 The High Level Targets and exercise
of the Supervisory Duty will result in annual reports exposing
the state of the major elements of the flood defence service provided
by each of the operating authorities. The Agency believes such
open public access to information to be important in raising public
awareness of flood risk.
5. STATE OF
5.1 Main River/Non-Main River
5.1.1 The distinction between main river for
which the Agency is responsible, and non-main river for which
IDBs or Local Authorities (LAs) are responsible, is still confusing
to the public, particularly in the case of the latter. We have
not developed criteria to rationalise these categories. As part
of the response to Easter 1998 our priority has been to develop
criteria in conjunction with ADA and the LGA to identify "critical
ordinary watercourses". These watercourses have the potential
to put large numbers of people and property at risk from flooding.
IDBs and LAs are responsible for the inspection of these critical
ordinary watercourses and the intention has been to focus scarce
resources on the high flood risk locations.
5.2 Inspection of Defences
5.2.1 The High Level Targets require reporting
of condition of the critical watercourses and the state of any
flood defence assets alongside them. Both the Agriculture Select
Committee and the Independent Review Report of the Easter Floods
placed priority on a national visual survey of the state of river
defences. The Agency completed the inspection of defences under
its own jurisdiction by 1 April 2000.
5.2.2 In February 1999, the Agency wrote
to all LAs and IDBs to seek their assistance in carrying out inspections
of flood defences on critical ordinary watercourses. By February
2000, 69 LAs had replied that they were unwilling or unable to
carry out inspections and a further 13 LAs had not responded to
the Agency request.
5.2.3 In those cases where LAs had decided
not to inspect defences on critical ordinary watercourses and
had not provided information on the location of defences, the
Agency has, on a "best endeavours basis", sought to
identify and inspect them.
5.3 State of the Defences
5.3.1 MAFF set a target for all operating
authorities to identify and provide information on all flood defences
that are their responsibility by 1 September 2000, to correspond
with the original target date for the development of a National
Flood and Coastal Defence Database by the Environment Agency.
The Agency has met the target in respect of recording its own
5.3.2 To facilitate the production of a
national database for all defences, irrespective of ownership,
the Agency and MAFF jointly submitted a bid for allocation of
expenditure from the Capital Modernisation Fund. The bid for £4
million would have allowed the Agency to develop a single computer
database to store, manipulate and present information on flood
and coastal defence risk, assets and associated natural habitats,
supported by and available to all operating authorities. Unfortunately,
the bid was unsuccessful and due to other funding pressures it
is now expected to take five years to complete. There is also
a question of how the inclusion of coastal protection works will
5.3.3 The result of the Agency's visual
surveys on the condition of the river defences on main rivers
is shown below.
CONDITION RATING OF AGENCY OWNED DEFENCES
|Condition rating (%)
| ||Very good
Although the overall picture is of fairly good condition
for main river flood defences, further work is required to identify
the integrity of these defences.
5.3.4 Two riverside walls that were visually classified
as in fair condition failed under the high river levels experienced
during the June 2000 floods in the North East Region. These walls
were not owned or maintained by the Agency. Similar failures occurred
again in the North East Region on non-main river defences in the
recent October/November floods.
Recommendation h, i, f, g, o, hh
6.1 The Agency estimated that the shortfall in funding
for capital investment and maintenance was £30-£40 million
per annum in 1998. Pressure for expenditure on issues such as
flood warning arising from the Easter 1998 Action Plan have meant
further delays to capital schemes, studies and flood warning improvements.
6.2 In the light of the October/November 2000 floods,
the Agency believes that the study commissioned by MAFF is a reasonable
assessment of the future funding requirement for flood defence.
The report concluded that an increase of £100 million per
annum for capital works and maintenance investment is needed,
compared with the current total expenditure of £280 million
per annum by the Agency.
6.3 In the Comprehensive Spending Review 2000, MAFF was
successful in increasing the level of grant aid to all operating
authorities as follows:
Additionally, the Rate Support Grant element for flood defence
funding for the Agency will increase by approximately 4.4 per
cent for each of the three years. There remains no certainty that
this will appear fully in the Flood Defence Levies paid to the
6.4 In response to the recent flooding, the Government
has announced additional funding of £51 million over the
four years 2000-01 to 2003-04 to enable early progress on schemes
for towns affected by river flooding, improvements to the flood
warning system and the development of catchment strategies.
6.5 The Agency believes that simplification of the current
system of administering capital grant payments to the Agency is
still appropriate. A Government decision is awaited.
6.6 The Agency Board approved a sequence of priorities
for funding flood defence in December 1999. Flood Defence Committees
were asked to follow this priority sequence and were requested
to identify, in their minutes, works that would not proceed due
to lack of funding. The priority sequence is shown in Appendix
C [not printed].
6.7 The outcomes of the levy round for England, on a
national basis, are as follows:
| ||Recommended Levy|
7. CONTROL OF
Recommendations t, u, v
7.1 The Agency has provided a formal submission to the
Department of the Environment, Transport and Regions on the consultation
draft of Planning Policy Guidance 25 (PPG 25)Development
and Flood Risk. This is subject to an Inquiry by the Select Committee
for Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs, (November 2000)
7.2 In summary, our response to the Government's consultation
in June 2000 highlighted that the draft PPG 25 must be more specific
and go further to:
Ensure the use of a more sustainable approach
to development and flood risk.
Emphasise that flood defences reduce the risk
of flooding, they do not eliminate it.
Clearly define the Government position on flood
safety and new development.
Promote development in low flood risk areas first,
and use a sequential search sequence to promote development away
from areas of high flood risk.
Prescribe minimum standards of flood defence for
Emphasise more strongly that development can and
should be made more "flood-resistant" through innovative
"Future-proof" development by using
current climate predictions as the basis for design.
Ensure that emergency services are involved in
the planning of new development.
Ensure that new development does not add to the
cost of maintaining, operating and replacing existing flood defences.
7.3 In the light of recent floods we suggest that the
Take a much firmer line to prevent properties
being flooded, making allowances for climate change.
Adopt a precautionary approach to prevent flooding
problems in the future.
Be reinforced by Building Regulations and other
relevant guidance to ensure that development is better designed
to be safe and to resist floods.
Be reviewed against specific targets for the amount
of development permitted in flood risk areas at National, Regional
and Local levels.
Instigate a review of the flood risk to and from
sites already identified in Local Authority Development Plans.
Encourage Local Authorities to set standards for
flood defence at a higher level than the minimum prescribed in
7.4 The Agency welcomes guidance on developer contributions
within the draft PPG25. We believe Local Authorities should enter
into agreement under Section 106 of the Town and County Planning
Act 1990 to ensure that the developer carries out the necessary
works and that future maintenance commitments are funded by the
7.5 The Agency is promoting the need for Development
Plans to include strategic flood risk assessment on a river catchment
basis to provide a broad understanding of the issues and the impact
of development. Where development is proposed then developers
must be required to pay for a detailed flood risk assessment.
Recommendation c, bb, j
8.1 In accordance with MAFF priorities, direction and grant
funding the Agency is well advanced with implementing a strategic
approach to coastal management. Recent flooding events from rivers
clearly demonstrate the importance of over-arching catchment strategies
that take a holistic view rather than focusing solely on capital
solutions. Progress with these has been constrained by lack of
funding and robust guidance. Restructuring within the Agency should
provide more impetus.
8.2 The Agency believes that the current relatively strict
adherence to cost benefit analysis in investment decision making
needs to be extended. Research is starting to enable the social
impact of flooding to be quantified and we would hope that this
will enable its inclusion in more balanced decisions in future.
8.3 We believe there is a need to introduce scenario
planning into decision making to enable the potential effects
of climate change to be considered. Given predictions of increase
in both the frequency and severity of storms, there is a need
to err on the side of caution in investment decisions.
9. POST EASTER
1998 FLOODS ACTIONS
9.1 This is included in full as Annex A [not printed].
However, the main elements are briefly highlighted here.
9.2 In October 1998, MAFF Minister Elliot Morley MP agreed
the Agency's Action Plan and set out his own requirement in a
Ministerial Statement for a "seamless and integrated service
of flood forecasting, warning and response".
9.3 The Agency's Action Plan outlined a number of activities
which encompass the many improvements to the Agency's own operational
procedures and policies and those we conduct in liaison with our
partners in Local Authorities, emergency services, public utilities
and the media.
9.4 Key completed actions include the following:
9.4.1 In October 1999, the Agency launched a major ongoing
public awareness campaign on the issue of flooding. In addition
to the advertising campaign, some 311,00 homes and businesses
in flood risk areas were mailed reusable plastic flood kits containing
practical information and advice. The lessons learnt from analysis
of the first campaign were used in the development of a second
expanded campaign involving direct mailing to some 843,000 properties
which was run in September 2000. At the heart of the public awareness
campaign is a new national telephone information line called Floodline
(0845 988 1188) which provides 24 hour flood warning information
throughout England and Wales.
9.4.2 A new National Flood Warning Centre has been established
which will ensure that the Agency continues to develop its capabilities
to meet the needs of the public in terms of flood forecasting,
warning and response. As part of the work of the Centre a 10 year
strategy has been produced identifying the need for investment
of some £107 million over the period.
9.4.3 The first phase of the telemetry network improvements
has been completed. An additional 109 river level gauges, 16 river
flow gauges and 65 rain gauges have been added to the system,
which enables conditions to be monitored during flooding and allows
calibration of flood models.
9.4.4 A new warning code system (see Annex B [not printed])
has been developed following extensive consumer research and consultation
with professional partners. This replaced the original colour-coded
warning system which research showed many people had found difficult
to understand. The new codes went "live" on 11 September
2000. Experience of the October/November floods indicate these
have worked well.
9.4.5 To ensure that emergency services and Local Authorities,
who take the lead role in responding to the needs of those affected
by flooding, are aware of the areas at risk of flooding, a set
of Indicative Flood Plain Maps were published and distributed
in electronic and paper format. The maps are also being used by
Local Authorities in undertaking their role as Planning Authorities.
The maps are also available in paper format to members of the
public and other organisations and have been updated in 2000.
These will be available on the Agency's internet site in December
of this year.
9.4.6 A separate review of the Agency's internal management
structure was completed. This led to the introduction of new national
standard management structures by September 2000.
Since Easter 1998, much progress has been made in improving
the flood warning and defences for the benefit of the businesses
and people in flood risk areas. However, further change and progress
is needed if we are to sustain this momentum and provide the seamless
and integrated service the Minister requires.
17 November 2000