Memorandum submitted by Martin Salter
MP (FL MP 04)
A clear distinction needs to be made between
surface water flooding and the over-topping of rivers and streams.
It has been estimated that overloaded Victorian sewers and drains
account for around half of preventable floods.
River flooding is a natural occurrence and there
is little that can be done to reduce the amount of water that
will find its way down our river valleys. Flood defences can protect
some communities but can also increase the risk of flooding further
downstream. Relief channels such as the Jubilee River in Berkshire
can divert water at times of high flows and protect communities
in low lying areas.
Intensive farming practices have created less
capacity to hold back water in the upper reaches of river valleys.
The destruction of functional water meadows which retain flood
water and release it slowly back into the catchments has been
caused by both farming and development. Flash flooding in many
rivers is now more commonplace as a result, adding to problems
Land drainage policies for the 60s and 70s have
exacerbated the problem by straightening and dredging the smaller
upstream tributaries resulting in faster run off. Fortunately,
the EA now has a more enlightened policy.
Building in the flood plain has left 1 1/2 million
homes at risk of flooding. The new planning guidance PPS 25 seeks
to protect functional floodplain (ie water meadows etc) and yet
20% of applications objected to by the EA still receive approval
Currently there are four or five different authorities
responsible for the maintenance of drains, ditches, culverts and
streams all of which carry surface water run off. These are: Local
councils (country and/or district), the Water companies, Riparian
owners, and the Environment Agency. The E.A. is only responsible
for streams and rivers designated as Critical Ordinary Watercourses
The July floods of 2007 overwhelmed the existing
outdated drainage infrastructure. In many areas it is true to
say that no system would have coped with the sheer volumes of
water but in others increased capacity would have provided some
Should we incentivise farmers to recreate the
peat bogs and water meadows that act as natural sponges to hold
There should be a comprehensive mapping exercise
to identify every drain, culvert and watercourse to establish
ownership and assess capacity to handle high volumes of water.
A competent authority must exist to enforce
the maintenance and upkeep of these watercourses. Should this
be the E.A. or local councils?
Developers should be required to make financial
contributions to the costs of improving drainage. How could this
Should the E.A. have the power to veto significant
planning applications which increase flood risk?
We need substantial investment to increase drainage
capacity, create flood relief schemes and improve flood defences
Should we create more flood relief channels
rather than flood defence barriers?
How effective were the emergency planning arrangements
in the flood hit areas?
Do sandbags make any difference? Are there more
effective methods of protecting flood hit properties?
Martin Salter MP