About 1 in 6 people in England live in properties which are at risk of flooding. In addition to the potential for loss of life and damage to property, flooding can affect health and well-being, disrupt essential services, cause loss of business and damage to cultural heritage and the environment. Fewer people are at risk from coastal erosion but the impacts can be dramatic, including complete loss of land and property.
The government is already taking action on a range of fronts to tackle flooding and erosion, with three particular focuses.
We are investing £2.6 billion between 2015 and 2021 to better protect 300,000 homes.
We published the Surface Water Management Action Plan, which included a commitment to review effectiveness and compliance with local requirements. It will also consider how responsibility for surface water and drainage assets is determined locally, including dispute resolution. I have appointed David Jenkins, Chair of the Wessex Regional Flood and Coastal Committee, to undertake this independent review. He will provide an interim report by December. David will draw on his past experience as CEO of an LLFA, solicitor and member of an Ombudsman Office.
After recent reviews, we established a National Flood Response Centre for dealing with major floods and deployed additional resources to improve capacity and capability on flood forecasting and response. After experiencing the devastation of a flood, we want to ensure people can return to their homes as quickly as possible and suffer less damage in their properties. To support this, we want to incentivise people to make their properties more resilient to flooding. That is why I will shortly be announcing three areas where we will carry out pathfinder projects, supported by government funding, to lead local innovation and increase uptake of resilience measures.
The government established the Flood Re insurance scheme so that households in high flood risk areas could obtain affordable insurance. Flood Re reported recently that the number of household policies backed by the scheme rose to more than 164,000 by 31st March 2019. Today Flood Re have published their first review of the scheme which makes a number of recommendations to government about how the scheme could be made more efficient and effective. I welcome their report and I will be considering the recommendations carefully.
Climate change and population growth mean that the risks from flooding and coastal erosion are increasing. That is why government is looking to update the flood and coastal erosion policy framework to ensure that we can continue to manage these risks effectively into the future.
By the end of 2019, the government will set out its policies to better prepare the country for flooding and coastal erosion in a government policy statement on flooding and coastal erosion, a national infrastructure strategy and in the decisions made in a spending review. Informed by this government policy, the Environment Agency will update its national strategy for flood and coastal erosion risk management.
The government policy statement will take into account information from many sources including: the UK climate projections 2018 and Climate Change Risk Assessment; the first National Infrastructure Assessment; and responses to recent consultations such as those on: the Environment Agency’s draft National Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy for England; “Improving our management of water in the environment” ; local authority funding for flood and coast as part of the review of local authorities’ relative needs and resources; and the Infrastructure Finance Review consultation.
The call for evidence which I have published today focuses on some specific issues on which the government would like additional evidence. They are:
What we understand by the term “resilience” – asking how the term resilience is currently used, and whether the different aspects of resilience could usefully be brought together into one overall concept.
Describing outcomes, driving action and monitoring progress – seeking examples of cases where metrics have been used effectively to achieve an overarching outcome, and information on the advantages and disadvantages of using composite metrics to describe, drive and monitor flood and coast outcomes.
Adapting to coastal change – seeking information about what coast protection authorities have done to join up decisions about manging the coastline with wider plans and decisions for the area, and examples of whether councils have used, or tried to use powers to fund specific coastal erosion works or to create Coastal Change Management Areas.
Corporation tax relief for business contributions – asking how businesses have used the provision for businesses to receive corporation tax relief on their contributions to government funded flood and coast projects.
Local funding initiatives for flood risk management – seeking examples of local initiatives funded from sources other than the public sector and what could be done to help these types of initiatives succeed.
Developer contributions – asking about the barriers and enablers to the use of developer contributions to ensure developments are safe for their lifetime, and what arrangements are in place for maintaining flood assets in new developments.
Managing financial risks from flooding – asking about how organisations manage the financial risks associated with flooding, in the context of climate change.
I will arrange for copies of the Call for Evidence to be placed in the Libraries of the House.