Extract from The Guardian 5th August 2016
Experts warn that time is running out to prevent similar devastation caused by last year’s floods as National Flood Resilience Review is delayed
This government review, launched to pinpoint ways to prevent a repetition of last winter’s devastation, has just been postponed. The National Flood Resilience Review, chaired by the former Cabinet Office minister Oliver Letwin, was scheduled for publication in July but will not now appear for several more weeks.
“Given that the review was supposed to find ways to prevent Britain being caught out again this winter by the kind of rains we have just faced, this is a worrying development,” said Bob Ward, of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. “Time is running out to make the kind of changes that will be needed to limit the damage we saw last year.”
Meteorological records show that six of the seven wettest years since records began occurred from 2000 onwards. Scientists blame global warming, which is heating the atmosphere, allowing it to hold on to more water, which it then releases as bursts of intense rainfall.
And according to meteorologists, things are only going to get worse as increasingly intense downpours and flooding inflict more and more misery.
“The impacts of flooding and coastal change in the UK are already significant and expected to increase,” said the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment, published in July .
Flooding: the problem that will not go away
More than 5million homes in England – one in six properties – are at risk of flooding. Given that it will take about £80,000 to repair the Jones’s home, this figure suggests that billions of pounds of damage is likely to be inflicted in the near future. Urgent action is needed, say experts.
“The problem is that many people still do not understand the risks involved,” said Professor John Krebs of Oxford University, a member of the government’s committee on climate change.
“There is a standard line that an area might have one chance in every 100 years of being flooded. But there are dozens of such areas, so these chances accumulate, making it very likely that somewhere in Britain will be flooded every year. This makes the issue far trickier. It is a wider one than is realised.”
Paul Cobbing, chief executive of the National Flood Forum, the charity that promotes greater awareness and action about flooding in the UK, agrees. “People have to realise that it is going to take a great deal of hard graft over the next 20 or 30 years,” he said. “We have to take a far broader approach to the problem than we are at present. Flooding is going to affect new schools, care homes, roads, and railway lines. All kinds of infrastructure will increasingly be at risk.”
However, moves to tighten legislation that would control the construction of houses in flood risk areas – which are being built at a rate of 4,500 a year – have been rejected by the government. Krebs said he had proposed amendments to the housing and planning bill as it went through parliament.
One proposals was that developers should not be allowed to link new homes to the national drain system until they had proved that these properties could control sewage overflows, a common consequence of flooding. He also argued that developers should have to guarantee that their properties could withstand flooding for the first 10 or so years of their construction. “Both proposals were rejected, which I found rather dispiriting,” he said.