Flooding Contents


Our inquiry

1.The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has listed flooding and coastal change as one of the greatest climate change risks for the UK, both now and in the future.1 Over 5.2 million homes and businesses in England are at risk from flooding, according to the Environment Agency, with levels of risk ranging from “very low” to “high”.2 Properties are at risk from a number of types of flooding:

2.The increasing frequency of severe weather was demonstrated in the widespread flooding that occurred over the autumn and winter of 2019–20. Over 4,600 properties were flooded across England due to heavy rainfall and the impacts of Storms Ciara and Dennis.4 The Association of British Insurers (ABI) said that insurers expected to pay out over £543 million following Storms Ciara, Dennis and Jorge (including £305 million relating to flooded property claims).5

3.In the aftermath of these events, we launched an inquiry into flooding on 4 March 2020. During the course of our inquiry, the Government published a new Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Policy Statement in July 2020, which it described as “the most significant ramping up of flood policies for a decade”.6 This coincided with the Environment Agency’s (EA) publication of an updated National Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy, replacing a previous strategy from 2011.7 The final terms of reference for our inquiry, updated to reflect these publications, were:

a)How effectively do the new Government policy statement and Environment Agency strategy meet the challenge posed by a changing climate?

b)Are the current national and local governance and co-ordination arrangements for floods and coastal risk management in England effective?

c)What level of investment will be required in future in order to effectively manage flood risk in England, and how can this best be targeted?

d)How can communities most effectively be involved, and supported, in the policies and decisions that affect them?

e)With increasing focus on natural flood management measures, how should future agricultural and environmental policies be focussed and integrated with the Government’s wider approach to flood risk?

f)How can housing and other development be made more resilient to flooding, and what role can be played by measures such as insurance, sustainable drainage and planning policy?

g)What lessons can be learned from the recent winter floods about the way Government and local authorities respond to flooding events?8

The inquiry also drew on the evidence received, and questions raised, during the previous Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee’s inquiry into Coastal flooding and erosion, and adaptation to climate change which was ended by the 2019 General Election. The Committee published an interim report in November 2019 prior to the dissolution of Parliament.9

4.We received over 100 written submissions to our inquiry, and held four oral evidence sessions with bodies involved in managing the risk of flooding, charities, trade bodies and experts on climate change, infrastructure and insurance. We also held a virtual “roundtable” discussion with local flood risk community groups on 8 October 2020, facilitated by the National Flood Forum, and a summary report of this discussion is annexed to this Report. We are grateful to everyone who contributed to this inquiry and shared their experiences with us.

5.The final stages of our inquiry coincided with further flooding in December 2020 and January 2021, with heavy rainfall and exceptionally high river levels following the impact of Storm Christoph.10 While the evidence received for our inquiry predated this severe weather and we have therefore been unable to consider it in detail, we did put further questions to the Environment Agency on their response when they appeared before us on 19 January 2021.11

2 Environment Agency, ‘Flood and coastal erosion risk management report: 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2019,’ accessed 20 January 2021

3 Environment Agency, ‘Flood and coastal erosion risk management report: 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2019’, accessed 20 January 2021

4 Environment Agency (FLO0037) para 3.1

5 Association of British Insurers (FLO0092) para 6

6 HM Government, ‘Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Policy Statement’ (July 2020), p 4

8 Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, ‘Flooding’, accessed 26 January 2021

9 Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, First Report of Session 2019, Coastal flooding and erosion, and adaptation to climate change: Interim Report, HC 56, para 12

10 “A Cold Spell to Come”, Met Office press release, 21 January 2021; ‘River levels remain exceptionally high across England”, Environment Agency news story, updated 23 January 2021

11 Oral evidence taken on 19 January 2021, HC (2019–21) 1155, Qq2–7

Published: 8 February 2021 Site information    Accessibility statement