Environment Agency welcomes changes to flood management under Pitt review

PUBLISHED: 16:37 17 December 2008 | UPDATED: 11:55 17 June 2010

FOLLOWING the Government s response today to Sir Michael Pitt s review of the summer 2007 floods, the Environment Agency is urging local authorities to begin implementing their new role in managing local flood risk.

FOLLOWING the Government's response today to Sir Michael Pitt's review of the summer 2007 floods, the Environment Agency is urging local authorities to begin implementing their new role in managing local flood risk.

The Environment Agency has already made good progress in taking on its new strategic overview role for all types of flooding in England, ahead of securing necessary powers in the forthcoming Floods and Water Bill. The Environment Agency is today calling on local authorities not to wait for legislation in order to start implementing their new responsibilities for managing flood risk locally.

Since the floods of summer 2007, the Environment Agency has identified and provided maps of local areas susceptible to flooding from surface water - the key cause of the 2007 floods - to help local authorities better understand, plan and manage surface water flooding in their locality. It has also launched a successful Extreme Rainfall Alert (ERA) pilot service to forecast and warn emergency responders about extreme events.

In 2008, the South West region has experienced two flooding incidents primarily caused by surface water, firstly in East Devon and again this week in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset.

The Environment Agency has also made significant progress in a number of other areas focused by the Pitt review including:

* Establishing a new joint Flood Forecasting Centre for England and Wales with the Met Office to combine expertise in weather and flood risk management under the same roof for the first time. The Centre will provide the basis for an improved forecasting and alert service for emergency responders;

* Completing 54 new flood defences in England and Wales since June 2007, increasing protection to more than 38,000 homes - including St Ives, Flexbury, near Bude, and the Parrett, which were protected against major flooding this year as a result;

* Signing up an extra 78,000 properties to its free Flood Warnings Direct service since July 2007;

* Providing extensive advice to Local Resilience Forums and emergency services about critical infrastructure in their areas and steps that should be taken to address flood risk at such sites;

* Working with water utilities and Water UK on a national protocol for sharing data for surface water risk assessments and planning; and

* Continuing to raise public awareness of flood risk.

The Environment Agency is pleased to see the Government's commitment to spending on flood and coastal risk management but is keen for this to continue.

The Environment Agency is developing a long term investment strategy which will give an indication of the likely increase in funding that will be needed over the next 25 years to manage flood risk, to keep pace with climate change.

It also welcomes the recent announcement in the pre-budget report that will see £20 million of existing funding brought forward, enabling work to commence a year earlier than planned on over 70 new projects in England.

Welcoming the Government's response Sir Michael Pitt's report, Environment Agency Regional Director Richard Cresswell, said:

'We are pleased that the Government agrees that the Environment Agency is the right organisation to be given the strategic overview role for all types of flood and coastal risk in England.'

'Our new role will enable us to provide leadership and co-ordinated planning and management of all sources of flood risk. We have been working closely with Government, local authorities, emergency responders and utility companies to ensure that we are better prepared for flooding when it occurs.

'Individuals and businesses must also take steps to prepare themselves for the risk of flooding. The Floods and Water Bill will give us the proper legal tools and clarity of responsibilities to complete the task ahead.'

'We must all acknowledge the real threat posed by climate change and adapt accordingly to protect lives, the environment, the economy and property. For this reason, investment in flood risk management should continue to rise to help to meet these challenges,' added Richard Cresswell.

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