ADA has responded to a wide-ranging consultation from Defra on legislative and regulatory measures to improve the management of water in the environment. Read the full consultation at defra.gov.uk.
Broadly, Defra’s proposals aim to:
ADA’s response particularly focused on the elements related to functions of risk management authorities (RMAs). ADA supports, and has lobbied for, legislation to update the charging methodology for IDBs, particularly around the valuation of non-agricultural land that is currently dependent on original records from the late 1980s. These reforms would provide the technical provisions to use more contemporary data and enable the establishment of new IDBs or modify the boundaries of existing IDBs. ADA supports a managed transition to a new charging methodology by existing IDBs over five years from the point any regulations and guidance comes into force.
You can read more about the testing of a new methodology by ADA and the rationale for these important changes in the document below, provided to Defra, MHCLG, CLA, LGA, and NFU in February 2018.
ADA also supports the creation of Rivers Authorities, where locally supported by existing risk management authorities to enable additional local precept funding for FCERM activities. ADA specified some important matters to ensure the good governance of any Rivers Authorities established in the future, namely the public appointment of an independent chair for such bodies. Currently there is only the Somerset Rivers Authority, created following flooding to the Somerset Levels & Moors in 2013-14. However the SRA has only been granted powers to levy a local precept to fund its work by the Minister, which is not a sustainable long-term situation.
The legislative changes proposed to create Rivers Authorities and to change the charging methodology for IDBs are already contained in the Rivers Authorities & Land Drainage Bill, a private members bill currently before Parliament. The consultation potentially enables these provisions to be picked up by a future Government Bill were that Private Members Bill to fail to become an Act of Parliament this time.
On local funding measures, ADA emphasised the mechanisms already available in existing legislation, some of which have been underutilised to date. We raised a number of suggestions for technical reforms to legislation and government policy that could facilitate, and remove existing barriers to, further local funding. Perhaps most important of these was the need for a new power to transfer assets, land and property between RMAs.
Topics raised in ADA’s response associated with local funding of flood and coastal risk management:
The River Maintenance Transfer Pilot projects have demonstrated that where there is a need to transfer assets and land associated with a flood and coastal risk management function between risk management authorities, the existing legislative framework requires RMAs to sell such property at commercial value, despite its specific purposes and functions to manage flood risk. This currently acts as a barrier to facilitating the transfer of systems and assets between RMAs so as to ensure that the most appropriate and cost effective authority manages and maintains these assets. This is currently creating additional costs for the taxpayer.
To resolve this problem ADA’s response proposed that the Flood & Water Management Act 2010 be amended to grant a new power on RMAs to transfer land and property associated with flood and coastal risk management to another RMA without cost. This is analogous with the powers bestowed within the Highways Act 1980 to transfer land and property associated with highways between highways authorities owing to a change in highway status.