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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-flood-and-coastal-erosion-risk-management-strategy-for-england--2/national-flood-and-coastal-erosion-risk-management-strategy-for-england-executive-summary
A strategy for flooding and coastal change
The Flood and Water Management Act 2010 places a statutory duty on the Environment Agency to develop a National Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy for England. This strategy describes what needs to be done by all risk management authorities (RMAs) involved in flood and coastal erosion risk management for the benefit of people and places. This includes:
- the Environment Agency
- lead local flood authorities
- district councils
- internal drainage boards
- highways authorities
- water and sewerage companies
They must exercise their flood and coastal erosion risk management (FCERM) activities, including plans and strategies, consistently with the strategy. Through its ‘strategic overview’ role the Environment Agency exercises its strategic leadership for all sources of flooding and coastal change. This strategy seeks to better manage the risks and consequences of flooding from:
- the sea
- ordinary watercourses
- surface water
- coastal erosion
This strategy will not be effectively delivered by RMAs working on their own. We all need to take action now so that we are ready for what the future will bring. Everyone needs to contribute to planning and adapting to coastal change, including:
- the third sector
- land managers
- infrastructure providers
It is for this reason that the Environment Agency worked in collaboration with FCERM practitioners in a wide range of organisations to develop this strategy. The strategy provides a framework for guiding the operational activities and decision making of practitioners. It supports the direction set by government policy which includes its FCERM policy statement (Defra, 2020e). The strategy sets out the long-term delivery objectives the nation should take over the next 10 to 30 years. It also includes shorter term, practical measures RMAs should take working with partners and communities.
This strategy recognises that every place is different and that local people will define their place in different ways. For some it might be their county, city, town or village. For others, a place could mean a river catchment, a tidal estuary or part of the coast.
Progress towards a nation resilient to flooding and coastal change
The original National Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy for England was published in 2011. There has been significant progress since then. RMAs, working with local partners, have invested £2.6 billion of government funding in FCERM between 2015 and 2021. This will better protect 300,000 homes (Environment Agency, 2019m).
We cannot eliminate the risk of all flooding and coastal change. But the nation’s investment in flood and coastal defences has been effective at:
- better protecting properties
- reducing the impacts of flooding on peoples’ lives and livelihoods
We have seen progressively fewer properties flooded following recent incidents:
- in the floods of summer 2007, about 55,000 homes and businesses
- in the winter 2015/16 floods it was around 21,000 (Environment Agency, 2018a)
- during the winter 2019/20 floods it was around 4,600 (Environment Agency, 2020e)
Our defences have also helped to avoid significant economic damages to:
In the winter 2019/20 flooding the estimates of the economic losses are about £333 million. But the economic damage avoided from the protection provided is at least 14 times greater (Environment Agency, 2020e).
In the 2020 Budget, the government committed to doubling expenditure on FCERM to £5.2 billion between 2021 and 2027 (HM Treasury, 2020). This record-breaking spending will better protect a further 336,000 homes and properties as well as avoid £32 billion of wider economic damages to the nation. In addition, the government provided £200 million between 2021 and 2027 for a resilience programme. This will support 25 local areas to take forward wider innovative actions that improve their resilience to flooding and coastal erosion (HM Treasury, 2020).
Importantly, government policy and evidence has also continued to evolve since the 2011 strategy was published. In 2018 the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan published its aspiration to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than when we found it (Defra, 2018a). According to the 2018 UK Climate Change Projections average sea level could increase by over a metre by the end of the century (Met Office, 2019). This underlines the importance of acting now to adapt to flooding and coastal change. In 2019 the government set a new target requiring the UK to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 (BEIS, 2019). The government’s Environment Bill (Parliament UK, 2020a) and Agriculture Bill (Parliament UK, 2020b) recognise that we need to:
- make nature’s power part of our solution
- support farmers and land managers to take a more integrated approach to flood risk and water resource management through the Environmental Land Management scheme
Internationally our understanding of future climate hazards has significantly improved. This is impacting the way governments and public bodies around the world are preparing, responding and adapting to future flood and coastal risks. According to the World Health Organisation climate change is one of the greatest threats to global health in the 21st century (WHO, 2015).
There have been collective improvements in:
- our understanding of climate science
- learning from flood events
- developments in government policy
This means that now is the right time to produce a new strategy. This strategy presents an opportunity to create climate resilient places that facilitates a greener, cleaner, and more resilient future. In doing so it mirrors the direction given by the government on World Environment Day 2020 (Twitter, 2020).
The 2020 Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy
This strategy’s long-term vision is for: a nation ready for, and resilient to, flooding and coastal change – today, tomorrow and to the year 2100.
It has 3 long-term ambitions, underpinned by evidence about future risk and investment needs. They are:
climate resilient places: working with partners to bolster resilience to flooding and coastal change across the nation, both now and in the face of climate change
today’s growth and infrastructure resilient in tomorrow’s climate: making the right investment and planning decisions to secure sustainable growth and environmental improvements, as well as infrastructure resilient to flooding and coastal change
a nation ready to respond and adapt to flooding and coastal change: ensuring local people understand their risk to flooding and coastal change, and know their responsibilities and how to take action
Climate resilient places
This strategy calls for the nation to embrace a broad range of resilience actions including better protection to flooding and coastal change.
We must continue to do what we have been doing: building and maintaining strong defences to reduce the risk of places being flooded. In the face of a changing climate, we need to also make our places more resilient to flooding and coastal change. That way when it does happen it:
- causes much less harm to people
- does much less damage
- ensures life can get back to normal much quicker
Alongside flood and coastal defences, we need a broader range of actions for achieving climate resilient places. This includes:
- avoiding inappropriate development in the floodplain
- using nature based solutions to slow the flow of or store flood waters
It involves better preparing and responding to flood and coastal incidents through timely and effective forecasting, warning and evacuation. Furthermore, it needs to be about:
- helping communities and local economies recover more quickly after a flood or ‘building back better’
- making properties and infrastructure more resilient to future flooding
Looking out to 2100, we need to help local places better plan and adapt to future flooding and coastal change. This will mean being agile to:
- the latest climate science
- growth projections
- investment opportunities
- other changes to our local environment
We call this ‘adaptive pathways’ that enable local places to better plan for future flooding and coastal change and adapt to future climate hazards. As a nation we need to improve the way we integrate adaptation to flooding and coastal change into:
- daily activities
- long-term strategic investment plans
- strategies for places and catchments
By doing so we can better equip practitioners and policy makers to make the best decisions, at the right time to:
- benefit people
- the economy
- the environment
In some places the scale and pace of future flooding and coastal erosion will be very significant. Over a period of time, some of these communities may choose to transition and adapt with support from RMAs.
What will be different?
RMAs will work with partners to:
deliver practical and innovative actions that help to bolster resilience to flood and coastal change in local places
make greater use of nature-based solutions that take a catchment led approach to managing the flow of water to improve resilience to both floods and droughts
maximise opportunities to work with farmers and land managers to help them adapt their businesses and practices to be resilient to flooding and coastal change
develop adaptive pathways in local places that equip practitioners and policy makers to better plan for future flood and coastal change and adapt to future climate hazards
Today’s growth and infrastructure resilient in tomorrow’s climate
This strategy sets out a long-term objective for RMAs to work with infrastructure providers to ensure all infrastructure investment is resilient to future flooding and coastal change. Over two-thirds of properties in England are served by infrastructure sites and networks located in, or dependent on others located in, areas at risk of flooding (Environment Agency, 2019a). Recent floods have demonstrated the vulnerability of critical infrastructure, such as electricity sub-stations and water treatment plants. Critical infrastructure affected by flooding can cause considerable disruption and economic damage. This directly affects peoples’ everyday lives by disrupting the essential services they rely on.
As the population grows, we are likely to see the number of properties in the flood plain almost double over the next 50 years. We must ensure that all new development is resilient to flooding and protects and enhances the environment. RMAs have a key role to play in engaging and advising developers and planners to get the right kind of sustainable growth in the right places. They should also be seizing opportunities for flood and coastal resilience activities to play their part in contributing to environmental net gain for development proposals.
This strategy identifies ways in which investments made to adapt to the threats from flooding and coastal change can enable growth in a sustainable and climate resilient way. More focus is also needed:
- on encouraging property owners to ‘build back better’ after a flood
- to mainstream property flood resilience measures that reduce flood damages and enable faster recovery for local communities
What will be different?
RMAs will work with partners to:
- put greater focus on providing timely and quality planning advice that helps avoid inappropriate development in areas at risk of flooding and coastal change
- leave the environment in a better state by contributing to environmental net gain for new development proposals
- ensure that spending on flood and coastal resilience contributes to job creation and sustainable growth in local places
- mainstream property flood resilience measures and to ‘build back better’ after flooding to reduce damages and enable faster recovery for local communities
- provide expert advice on how infrastructure providers (road, rail, water and power supplies) can ensure their investments are more resilient to future flooding and coastal change avoiding disruption to peoples’ lives and livelihoods
A nation ready to respond and adapt to flooding and coastal change
This strategy seeks to build a nation of people who:
- understand their risk to flooding and coastal change
- know their responsibilities and how to take action
Over 5.2 million homes and properties in England are at risk from flooding and coastal erosion (Environment Agency, 2019n). Yet only a third of people who live in areas at risk of flooding believe their property is at risk. Many more people are affected when transport services, energy or water infrastructure are damaged or disrupted. For every household directly affected during a large flood, about 16 people suffer knock-on effects from losses of utility services (Environment Agency, 2019a – derived).
We have a world class flood forecasting and warning service. It provides people, businesses and the emergency services with information to help them prepare for a flood. Over 1.4 million properties are signed up to receive free flood warnings (Environment Agency, 2020a). The Environment Agency will continue to work with partners to transform its warning and informing services. They will better reach people living, working or travelling though flood risk areas.
We also need to continue to develop digital services that:
- better communicate flooding and coastal change
- increase awareness of the risks people face
RMAs, local responders and the insurance sector also have a key role to play in helping people and businesses recover more quickly after flooding. We also need to be better at mobilising support from the third sector following significant flooding.
The threats posed by a changing climate are a global challenge and we are not facing them alone. We want our nation to be recognised as a world leader in researching and managing flooding and coastal change. Meeting the challenge of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050 will need new ideas and innovation across all sectors. Through this strategy we need to actively develop the flooding and coastal erosion skills and talent we need to create the climate resilient places of the future.
What will be different?
RMAs will work with partners to:
- support communities to better prepare and respond to flooding and coastal change, including transforming how people receive flood warnings
- ensure people and businesses receive the support they need from all those involved in recovery so they can get back to normal quicker after flooding
- help support communities with managing the long-term mental health impacts from flooding and coastal change
- develop the skills and capabilities needed to better support communities to adapt to future flooding and coastal change
- become a world leader in the research and innovation of flood and coastal risk management to better protect current and future generations
Engagement and monitoring of progress
This strategy has been developed collaboratively with practitioners in over 90 organisations. The Environment Agency established an advisory group to test the strategy’s objectives and measures. The group included representatives from:
- RMAs, including local government and internal drainage boards
- other national and civil society organisations
A draft strategy was also consulted on in May 2019. It received significant media coverage and over 400 responses. The responses have informed the strategy’s final long-term objectives and shorter term measures. The result is a final strategy with significant support. It will also result in positive and practical changes to the way flooding and coastal change is managed in England.
The Environment Agency will report annually to ministers on the progress RMAs are making with the strategy’s objectives and measures. These FCERM reports are a requirement of section 18 in the Flood and Water Management Act 2010. Alongside the strategy the Environment Agency will develop an action plan with partners for taking forward the strategy. It will be published by April 2021. The next review of the strategy is planned for 2026.
A full list of the references are on page 109 of the National Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management in England.