Policy

Reducing the threats of flooding and coastal change

Issue

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 200 homes at risk of complete loss to coastal erosion in the next 20 years. It’s possible 2,000 more could become at risk over this period.

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.

Actions

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

We’re funding flood and coastal erosion risk management authorities through grants to the Environment Agency and local authorities.

We are spending £2.4 billion in this four year period to March 2014 (from the financial year 2010 to 2011, to the financial year 2013 to 2014). This funding will:

  • improve forecasting and early warning systems
  • maintain existing flood defences, and
  • improve flood protection for 165,000 households

In response to the exceptional storms and floods over the winter, Defra has made an additional £270 million available for urgent repairs, restoration and maintenance of defences. This includes £130 million announced on 6 February 2014 and a further £140 million in the Budget 2014 on 19 March 2014.

On the 6 February 2014 the Environment Agency announced a programme of flood defence improvement projects. Fifty-five projects will begin construction in the financial year 2014 to 2015. When complete these projects will improve the protection for more than 42,000 households. Looking ahead we have made a long term 6-year commitment to record levels of capital investment, more than £370 million in the financial year 2015 to 2016 and then the same in real terms each year, rising to over £400 million in the financial year 2020 to 2021. We are on course to improve the protection to at least 165,000 households by 2015 and a further 300,000 by 2021.

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.

Making sure people get a fair deal on flood insurance

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.

We have reached an initial agreement with the insurance industry that would enable people living in the most flood-prone areas to get affordable flood insurance. The industry’s proposal – called Flood Re – would replace the current voluntary agreement (the Statement of Principles).

We are seeking powers in the Water Bill to implement these proposals. We consulted on the government’s preferred approach over the summer and have published a response to the issues raised.

Our amendments to the Water Bill were published on 29 November 2013 together with Water Bill: commentary on proposed flood insurance amendments and our impact assessment Managing the future financial risk of flooding. You can find out about the progress of the bill, read the text of the bill, and get the explanatory notes and impact assessments, on the Parliament UK web site.

The preferred approach would protect many of those most at risk by in effect capping flood insurance premiums. The proposal would mean that premiums would be set according to property values and that people will know the maximum they could be asked to pay.

To fund 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.

Background

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’ll implement all the provisions of the act by December 2014.

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.

More detail on the approach to delivering flood risk management plans.

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.

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