Future flood prevention Contents

1Our inquiry

1.Flooding is one of the major threats to the economy and wellbeing of five million people living and working in communities across England.2 More people are likely to be at risk in future as climate change affects weather patterns and sea levels. Rainfall is predicted to become more frequent and more intense: peak river flows could be more than twice current levels in some English regions by 2070.3 Changing weather patterns are already having an impact. Winter 2015–16 broke rainfall records: over Christmas and New Year Storms Desmond, Eva and Frank disrupted communities across northern parts of the UK. Storm Desmond alone cost more than £5 billion.4 The Committee on Climate Change warns that “severe flooding somewhere in England in any given year is almost to be expected”.5

2.In January 2016, we launched our inquiry to consider how England can better prevent such flooding and improve communities’ resilience when it does flood.6 In addition to receiving written and oral evidence, we undertook visits to the Somerset Levels in April, to the Netherlands in June, to the Moors for the Future Project near Sheffield in July, and to Pickering and York in August. We took evidence on where and how to improve government and public agencies’ ability to:

3.In addition to making recommendations on specific issues, we set out in this report a possible model to improve overall national and local governance of flood risk management. We are grateful to all those who provided evidence and to our Special Advisers, Professor David Balmforth and Dr Paul Quinn. We would also like to thank those involved in our UK and Dutch visits, in particular Henk Ovink, Special Envoy for International Water Affairs for the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Finally, we wish to record how impressed we have been by the commitment and hard work of those involved in managing flooding, in particular those on the front-line responding to challenging flood events.

3 Defra Flood Risk Assessment webpages. Figure refers to the high estimate for South East England in the 2080s.

4 KPMG estimated Storm Desmond costs to be in the range of £5–5.8 billion, 28 December 2015

5 Committee on Climate Change Adaptation Sub-Committee (FFP 110)

6 In this inquiry we considered fluvial flood risk (ie from rivers) and pluvial risk (ie from rain falling directly onto land leading to surface water flooding). We did not consider coastal flood risk due to limited time but recognise this is a key issue for coastal communities which we may wish to inquire into at a future date.

28 October 2016