Flooding and coastal change


Serious flooding can happen at any time. In England, more than 5 million properties are at risk of flooding - that’s nearly 1 in 6.

There are also more than 250 homes at risk due to coastal erosion in the next 20 years. It’s possible around 700 more homes could become at risk in the next 50 years.

The latest climate projections indicate that sea levels will rise, and there will be increasingly severe and frequent rainstorms. This means the risk of floods will increase.

Read about the UK government response to the 2014 UK floods.


Managing the risks of flooding

We develop the policies and legislation that set out how the authorities should manage the risks of flooding and coastal erosion - see who is responsible for managing flood risk.

We’re working with the authorities to make sure that their responses to flooding and coastal erosion are consistent with policy and legislation. We provide guidance to a wide range of organisations.

We’re basing our work on the national flood and coastal erosion risk management strategy for England. This sets out:

  • the flood and coastal erosion risks
  • a national framework and principles for flood risk management
  • the roles and responsibilities of various authorities
  • how flood risk management work is funded
  • the need to develop local solutions to flood risks

Funding flood and coastal erosion risk management

Funding for flood and coastal erosion risk management projects is available for local authorities, internal drainage boards and the Environment Agency. The Environment Agency are managing the allocation of funding.

Over the next six years, we will be investing £2.3 billion in more than 1,500 projects across the country. This will reduce flood risk for more than 300,000 households, on top of the 230,000 homes already protected since 2010. It will help keep families and businesses safe from the damage that flooding can cause.

The programme of flood and coastal defence improvements is built up of schemes developed and promoted by local authorities, internal drainage boards and the Environment Agency. They have been developed in collaboration with communities. We have published details of the projects in the programme. The work we are doing will help authorities to manage flood risks better, as well as do more. Defra’s “investment plan” sets out how the resources will improve flood and coastal erosion risk management over the coming years.

In our investment plan, we explained that the Chancellor had agreed to bring forward up to £60 million over the next 4 years. This is from within the total £2.3 billion budget. We have also been able to free up more than £80 million from within the budget over the six year period. We’ve done this through better management of risk and contingency at a programme level. This has allowed us to invest more than £140 million in accelerating work over the next six years. The Environment Agency has consulted Regional Flood and Coastal Committees on which schemes will benefit. A full list of the new and accelerated schemes has been published.

Dealing with flood emergencies

The Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) is responsible for national emergency planning for flooding. To make sure all relevant agencies and organisations are properly prepared to deal with flooding, we:

Read more about how we plan for and deal with flood emergencies.

Flood insurance: making sure people get a fair deal

We’re working with the insurance industry and others to make sure that home insurance is widely available and affordable in flood risk areas, and that this doesn’t cause insurance prices to rise for other people.

On 27 June 2013 we announced an agreement with the insurance industry to guarantee affordable flood insurance for people in high risk areas. The industry’s proposal – called Flood Re – would replace the current voluntary agreement (the Statement of Principles).

Part 4 in the Water Act 2014 sets out the broad scope of the regulations and how Flood Re will operate.

We published the government’s response to the consultation on the draft regulations necessary for the implementation of Flood Re in December 2014. We have reviewed the draft regulations to reflect comments made during the consultation and these draft regulations have now been laid before Parliament. They will be debated in the next Parliament.

Flood Re will protect many of those most at risk by limiting flood insurance premiums according to Council Tax bands (or equivalent in Devolved Administrations). This will help low income households.

To pay for this, a new industry-backed levy would enable insurance companies to cover those at most risk of flooding. All UK household insurers would have to pay into this pool, creating a fund that can be used to pay claims for people in high-risk homes. In the meantime, we’ve published a guide to help people to get affordable insurance.

We’ve also worked with the insurance industry and others to agree a template that can be completed by a surveyor after fitting resistant or resilient property level protection to a home. This flood risk report confirms the flood risk for a property so that insurers can take this into account when quoting for the cost of insurance.

We are working with the insurance industry to establish Flood Re by July 2015. There will be a period of testing and Flood Re will need to be authorised by the independent financial regulators. Once this has happened, households at high flood risk will be able to access to affordable flood insurance.

Insurers have agreed to continue to abide by their commitments under the 2008 Statement of Principles until the Flood Re scheme is fully operational.


The Pitt Review

The Pitt Review was carried out following devastating flooding in 2007. It resulted in a series of recommendations for improving the way flood risk is managed in England. We’re committed to implementing the recommendations to improve our flood defences and prevent unnecessary building in areas of high flood risk.

The Flood and Water Management Act 2010

Our response to the Pitt review resulted in new legislation – the Flood and Water Management Act 2010. This:

  • provides for better, more comprehensive management of flood risk
  • helps safeguard community groups from unaffordable rises in surface water drainage charges
  • protects water supplies to the customer

We’ve published:

Flood maps

The Environment Agency published new flood maps on 12 December 2013. These show the area that could be affected by flooding, either from rivers and the sea, reservoirs and for the first time surface water.

Flood risk regulations 2009

The EU Flood Directive (2007) requires all EU countries to take a common approach to flood risk management. This includes preparing:

The Floods Directive is transposed into English law through the Flood Risk Regulations 2009 which complement the Flood and Water Management Act 2010.

England and other UK administrations are in the process of implementing the EU legislation. Where possible, existing maps and plans used to manage flood risk will be adapted and developed to meet the requirements of the EU Directive and to co-ordinate with implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive.

We’ve produced guidance to lead local flood authorities on the methodology for identifying flood risk areas in England and Wales.

Guidance is available on Flood Risk Management Plans: what they are and who’s responsible for them and how to prepare them.

New approaches to managing coastal change

In June 2009 we funded 15 pathfinder projects to help communities adapt to a changing coastline. Work on these projects is now mostly completed.

Several of the pathfinder authorities developed approaches that involved moving assets and people at risk to safer locations. These are now being trialled.

Who we’re working with

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) is responsible for planning policy, including policy affecting the development of land which is at risk from flooding or coastal erosion.

The Environment Agency takes a strategic overview for all sources of flooding and coastal erosion in England. It also has operational responsibility for managing flood risk from rivers and the sea.

Lead local flood authorities (the unitary authority or the County Council where there is no unitary) are responsible for managing risk of flooding from small watercourses, surface runoff and groundwater.

Sewerage undertakers (often water companies, which raise funding through water rates or meter charges) are responsible for flooding from most sewers.

Internal drainage boards manage water levels and drainage of land in some low lying areas.

Coastal (local) authorities and the Environment Agency manage risks for coastal erosion.

More detail about who is responsible for managing flood risks.