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Flood defence policy flawed, say UK MPs

by Reporter - Jan 18 71 Views 0 Comment

A cross-party committee of MPs says the government must do more to protect English homes from flooding.

A report from the Public Accounts Committee highlights that the government has not been adequately maintaining the existing flood defenses or building enough new ones. Scientists believe that climate change increases the risk of severe rainfall and flooding. The government claims to have spent six billion pounds since 2010 to protect homes but has only committed to improving the protection of 200,000 properties between 2021 and 2027, instead of the originally planned 336,000 properties. The reason for this reduction is primarily due to inflation, according to a report published by the National Audit Office in November.

It has been reported that the number of flood defense projects in England has decreased. The primary reason for this reduction was inflation. The Public Accounts Committee submitted a report stating that delays and bureaucracy were also responsible for the decrease in the number of projects. In addition, certain flood defenses that had already been put in place were not properly maintained. According to members of parliament, the Environment Agency lacked funding of 34 million pounds to maintain its defenses, resulting in only 94% of its assets being properly maintained. This puts 203,000 homes at an increased risk of flooding in England. The members of parliament observed that the funds saved due to the slow progress of new flood defense projects could have been used to maintain the existing infrastructure.

According to Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, a Conservative Member of Parliament and the deputy chair of the Public Accounts Committee, "This inquiry has uncovered the alarming truth that in several ways, the approach to keeping our citizens safe in this area is contradictory and self-defeating," which is a concern that has been brought to light by the investigation. According to the official statistics, approximately 5.7 million homes in England are at risk of being flooded in some way or other. As a result of a series of storms that brought heavy rain, more than 2,000 homes and businesses in the United Kingdom were flooded this winter. 

A spokesperson for the Department of Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs stated that since 2010, the department has made investments totaling over six billion pounds to better protect over six hundred thousand properties from flooding and coastal erosion. "Thanks to this significant investment, 381,000 homes have been protected since 2015, with over 102,000 protected during Storm Henk." Noting that housing developments are still being constructed on flood plains, the members of parliament stated that it was "unforgivable" that this was occurring without any mitigation measures being taken. 

Although the government has stated that one of its goals is to make the country more resistant to flooding, the report stated that it had not defined what this specifically means, which meant that there was no way to determine whether or not it is succeeding in achieving this goal. The reality is that we also need to consider how we can make sure that we can live with the effects of climate change. How are we going to survive with flooding? Anne Marie Morris, a member of the Conservative Party and a member of the committee, told BBC News. "And that's a question which isn't being asked, and it must absolutely not only be asked but be answered."

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