ADA responds to Defra’s ‘Water in the Environment’ Consultation

ADA responds to Defra’s ‘Water in the Environment’ Consultation

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

Broadly, Defra’s proposals aim to:

  • achieve better long-term planning for water resources and wastewater drainage,
  • further reform elements of abstraction licensing to better protect the environment,
  • enable an updated charging methodology for IDBs,
  • establish Rivers Authorities in law as a precepting bodies,
  • open discussions around raising more local funding to tackle local flood and coastal risks, and
  • modernise the process for modifying water company licence conditions


ADA’s response

Download: ADA’s response to Defra

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.

Download: ADA Briefing on IDB Rating Reform

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:

  • transfer powers for RMAs (more information below),
  • the ‘Partnership funding’ model,
  • excluding IDB Special Levy from the local authority referendum cap,
  • circumstances for utilising Community Interest Companies,
  • Special Drainage Charges (as provided for by Section 137, Water Resources Act 1991),
  • facilitating cooperation between RMAs,
  • general powers for flood risk and land drainage works by ALL local authorities (as provided by Sections 14 and 14A, Land Drainage Act 1991),
  • improving Land Drainage Byelaws for IDBs and local authorities in relation to sustainable drainage systems and natural flood management features,
  • revising land drainage consent charges, currently charged at £50 by IDBs and LLFAs. This fee is defined in Section 23, Land Drainage Act 1991 and has remained the same since 1991,
  • highlighted the deleterious impact of Water Transfer Licencing on the water environment and careful water level management functions performed by IDBs,
  • modernising IDB electoral procedures, as set out in Schedule 1, Part 1, Land Drainage Act 1991,
  • properly assessing the value of agricultural land for its long term strategic purpose, in relation to the valuation of benefits of flood risk management works by RMAs,
  • review the current process for allocating capital project funding to RMAs, to simplify, reduce bureaucracy, and ensure transparency.


Transfer powers

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.