The Environment Agency has said ‘we cannot win a war against water’ by building higher flood defences and has urged a new approach to ensure coastal and flood resilience
Opening an 8-week consultation on the new strategy, Environment Agency chair Emma Howard Boyd said that the agency is preparing for a potential 4°C rise in global temperature and urgent action is needed to combat more frequent, intense flooding and sea level rise.
Among the recommendations in the strategy, the Environment Agency has committed to working with partners to develop consistent standards for coastal and flood resilience across the country. To achieve these standards, communities should have access to a range of tools which give them control of how they prepare for and respond to flooding and coastal change, based on the challenges or flood risk that particular location may face.
These could include traditional defences, temporary barriers, natural flood management, sustainable drainage systems, effective flood warnings and emergency response, alongside designing and adapting existing properties and new development so they can recover quickly from a flood.
Emma Howard Boyd said: “The coastline has never stayed in the same place and there have always been floods, but climate change is increasing and accelerating these threats.
“We can’t win a war against water by building away climate change with infinitely high flood defences. We need to develop consistent standards for flood and coastal resilience in England that help communities better understand their risk and give them more control about how to adapt and respond.”
The strategy calls for all infrastructure to be flood resilient by 2050 and the Environment Agency has committed to working with risk management authorities and infrastructure providers to achieve this.
In addition to coastal and flood resilience measures, an average of £1bn will need to be invested each year in traditional defences and natural flood management.
As well as taking precautions to prepare for flooding and prevent damage, the strategy calls for more to be done to encourage property owners to ‘build back better’ after a flood. This could involve home improvements to make them more resilient. The Environment Agency will work with government, insurers and financial institutions to review how to bring about this change by 2025.
The Flood and Coastal Risk Management Strategy consultation is due to run from 9 May for 8 weeks up until 4 July. Once the consultation has closed, the Environment Agency will review the responses and publish a final document which will then be laid before Parliament in winter 2019.