Collection

Flood and coastal erosion: risk management authorities

Who's responsible for flood and coastal erosion risk management, what they must do, and guidance on how to do it.

Defra has overall national responsibility for policy on flood and coastal erosion risk management (FCERM) in England.

The department provides funding for flood risk management through grants to the Environment Agency, local authorities and internal drainage boards.

These risk management authorities and others have their own responsibilities and powers that they can use in order to carry out these responsibilities.

They must also:

  • co-operate with each other in the interests of flood risk management and may share information for this purpose
  • aim to contribute towards the achievement of sustainable development

This guidance is for England. There’s separate guidance on flood risk from Natural Resources Wales, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and the Rivers Agency (in Northern Ireland).

Environment Agency

The Environment Agency supervises and works with other organisations to manage the risk of flooding and coastal erosion in England.

It also directly manages flood risk from main rivers, the sea and reservoirs (see a map of the main rivers).

The Environment Agency:

  • provides and operates flood warning systems
  • carries out works to manage flood risk from the sea and main rivers
  • carries out works in estuaries to secure adequate outfalls for main rivers
  • carries out surveys to inform FCERM works
  • issues consent for works on or near main rivers, and works affecting watercourses, flood and sea defences and other structures protected by its byelaws

The Environment Agency also:

  • advises planning authorities on the implications of development proposals on flood risk
  • designates structures and features of the environment that affect flood or coastal erosion risk
  • has the right to enter private land to carry out FCERM works

See flood risk maps for each river basin district.

Guidance for the Environment Agency

Lead local flood authorities

Lead local flood authorities have the lead operational role in managing the risk of flooding from surface water and groundwater. In areas with no district council, they also have the lead role in managing flood risk from ‘ordinary watercourses’, for example any watercourse that isn’t a main river.

They can be either unitary authorities or county councils.

Lead local flood authorities:

  • develop, apply, maintain and monitor strategies for local flood risk management in their areas
  • maintain a register of structures and features that are likely to have a significant effect on flood risk in their area and designate assets if appropriate
  • prepare and maintain a preliminary flood risk assessment, flood hazard maps, flood risk maps and flood risk management plans
  • take the lead on preparing surface water management plans

Lead local flood authorities can:

  • carry out work to manage flood risk from surface water and groundwater (and ordinary watercourses in areas with no district council)
  • carry out work that may cause flooding or coastal erosion in the interests of nature conservation, preservation of cultural heritage or people’s enjoyment of the environment or cultural heritage
  • acquire land in or outside of their district for use in flood risk management if necessary
  • designate structures and features of the environment that affect flood or coastal erosion risk (a district or unitary authority can also do this)
  • grant consents for culverts, dams and weirs on ordinary watercourses

Lead local flood authorities can make byelaws to ensure that flood risk management work is effective.

Guidance for lead local flood authorities

The Local Government Association has produced:

  • a framework to help lead local flood authorities develop their strategies
  • the flood risk portal with more information on flood risk management for local authorities

District councils

District councils:

  • manage flood risk from ordinary watercourses
  • operate and maintain existing sea defences and carry out other work to manage flood risk from the sea (with the consent of the Environment Agency)

They manage risk by working with lead local flood authorities and others to:

  • take flood risk into account when making decisions on development in their area
  • carry out flood risk management works on ordinary watercourses

District councils also act as coastal erosion risk management authorities in coastal areas by:

  • carrying out coast protection work (including constructing and maintaining works)
  • preparing long-term shoreline management plans

District councils can:

  • make byelaws to ensure that a drainage system works efficiently, regulate the environmental effects of a drainage system or ensure that flood risk management work is effective
  • designate structures and features of the environment that affect flood or coastal erosion risk
  • carry out work that may cause flooding or coastal erosion in the interests of nature conservation, preservation of cultural heritage or people’s enjoyment of the environment or cultural heritage

Guidance for district councils

The local government association has produced the flood risk portal with more information on flood risk management for local authorities.

Internal drainage boards

Internal drainage boards are independent public bodies responsible for water level management in low lying areas. They work in partnership with other authorities to actively manage and reduce the risk of flooding.

Internal drainage boards can make byelaws to ensure that a drainage system works efficiently, regulate the environmental effects of a drainage system or ensure that flood risk management work is effective.

Internal drainage boards can:

  • carry out work to manage the risk of flood from ordinary watercourses or, under an agreement with the Environment Agency, to main rivers
  • carry out work to manage flood risk in their areas from the sea, subject to getting Environment Agency consent in some circumstances
  • carry out work that may cause flooding or coastal erosion (subject to certain conditions) in the interests of nature conservation, the preservation of cultural heritage or people’s enjoyment of the environment or cultural heritage
  • acquire land in or outside of their district for use in flood risk management
  • designate structures and features of the environment that affect flood or coastal erosion risk
  • grant consents for culverts, dams and weirs on ordinary watercourses

Guidance for internal drainage boards

Regional flood and coastal committees

Regional flood and coastal committees provide a link between flood risk management authorities and other relevant bodies to develop mutual understanding of risks in their regions. They’re made up of members appointed by lead local flood authorities and the Environment Agency, with a chair appointed by the Secretary of State.

They ensure coherent plans are in place for:

  • identifying, communicating and managing flood and coastal erosion risks across catchments and shorelines
  • promoting efficient, targeted investment in flood and coastal erosion risk management

There are 12 regional flood and coastal committees in England:

Maps of the regional flood and coastal committee areas

  1. Anglian Central Regional Flood and Coastal Committee

    • Map
  2. Anglian Eastern Regional Flood and Coastal Committee map

    • Map
  3. Anglian Northern Regional Flood and Coastal Committee

    • Map
  4. English Severn and Wye Regional Flood and Coastal Committee map

    • Map
  5. Northumbria Regional Flood and Coastal Committee map

    • Map
  6. North West Regional Flood and Coastal Committee map

    • Map
  7. Southern Regional Flood and Coastal Committee map

    • Map
  8. South West and Wessex Regional Flood and Coastal Committee map

    • Map
  9. Thames Regional Flood and Coastal Committee map

    • Map
  10. Trent Regional Flood and Coastal Committee map

    • Map
  11. Yorkshire Regional Flood and Coastal Committee map

    • Map

Other risk management authorities

Highway authorities

Highway authorities (Highways England and unitary/county councils) are responsible for providing and managing highway drainage.

They must work within the Environment Agency’s national FCERM strategy and the lead local flood authority’s local flood risk management strategy when:

  • carrying out highway drainage works
  • filling in roadside ditches
  • diverting or carrying out works on part of a watercourse

Water and sewerage companies

Water and sewerage companies are responsible for managing the risks of flooding from surface water and foul or combined sewer systems.

Department of Communities and Local Government

The Department of Communities and Local Government works through Local Planning Authorities to ensure flood risk is taken into account in the planning process. It’s also responsible for building regulations.

Published 7 May 2015