The next government needs to appoint a Cabinet champion to protect against flooding and drought, says an all party parliamentary group.
In its new report, Living with water, the Commission of Inquiry of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Excellence in the Built Environment says “despite the increasing challenges, flood resilience and water management still remains a Cinderella issue at the highest political level, though it’s importance is no less than that of transport and power and it should have the same political priority as the development of High speed 2.”
The group is calling for a Cabinet champion to set in train a longer term vision for delivering a coordinated and sustainable long term flood and water management strategy to protect homes and infrastructure against increased flooding and also safeguard against increased water scarcity caused by drought.
The report says a fundamental change is needed in the way flood management is viewed. It says that building sustainable urban drainage systems (SuDS) – which mimic nature including ponds and shales – should be a key part of the strategy and also provide other community benefits, such as enriching the environment. It says the government is mistaken in its U-turn which means it will not now implement Schedule 3 of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010. The act sets out a plan for the adoption and maintenance of SuDS through council-run SuDs Approval Bodies.
Tony Burton, chair of the Construction Industry Council (CIC) and a member of the APPG Commission of Inquiry said: “We have what is described as the most disconnected water management system in the world. Too many organisations have responsibility for aspects of water and drainage and they are under no obligation to co-operate even where it is essential to deliver resilience. We find it particularly disappointing that there will no longer be a requirement for setting up SuDS Approval Bodies which would have drawn up standards.” The APPG for Excellence in the Built Environment is supported by the CIC.
Key recommendations include:
- Strong leadership: Government needs to foster clear leadership on water issues and appoint a Cabinet champion to set in train a longer term vision for delivering a co-ordinated long term flood and water management strategy and it must ring-fence funding to do so
- Strategic land review: This new water champion should instigate a review of land use policy, placing water and climate change alongside a range of other emerging priorities for a multi-functional landscape
- More cash for maintenance: There needs to be even stronger emphasis on maintenance funding to ensure that existing flood protection assets are sustained
- Retrofitting for resilience: Government should undertake an investment programme to retrofit towns and cities to make them more resilient, as an additional aspect of their flood defence spending
- Better design standards: Everywhere in this country is in a water catchment so water runoff needs to be reduced from every building, whether new or existing – helped with new Building Regulations for designing for flood resistance and resilience
- Using insurance to incentivise resilience: The insurance industry needs to give thought to how it can incentivise improving flood resilience of properties, rather than simply reinstating structures to inadequate pre-flooding standards
- Using Flood Re insurance to promote resilience: The Flood Re scheme due to be introduced in summer should be used to drive a step change in households’ protection and resilience. It is recommended that those measures set out by the Sub-Committee on Adaptation to make this happen should be adopted
- A bigger role for professionals in the built environment: Promote greater co-ordination of professionals through a new CIC grouping which could act as a sounding board through which to channel flooding policy.