ADA responds to Defra’s call for evidence on local flooding

ADA responds to Defra’s call for evidence on local flooding

Image: Steeping River flooding at Thorpe Culvert in June 2019 by Richard Hardesty

ADA has responded to Defra’s call for evidence on how local factors can be taken into account in the government’s flood and coastal defence investment programme and how government can increase the uptake of property flood resilience.

ADA’s submission addressed the questions posed in Part 1 of the Call for Evidence about Defra’s proposals to strengthen the assessment of local circumstances in the government’s investment in its programme of flood and coastal erosion risk management (FCERM) schemes.

Defra is exploring whether any specific changes should be made, such as to assist communities that:

  • have been frequently flooded in the past,
  • are more economically vulnerable and smaller communities, and
  • are in need of greater property-level measures to resist flood water.

It is also exploring how it can ensure timely and wider financial contributions to assist with the pace of developing a flood scheme and how the government tracks progress of the overall programme.

Key points from ADA’s response

In ADA’s response we supported further empowering RFCCs to make greater local choices based on local priorities. This could include prioritising schemes that:

  • better protect communities that have been frequently flooded in the past,
  • deliver the strategic resilience and future prosperity of communities and areas,
  • ensure the timely repair and resilience of existing aging assets and systems,
  • help reduce carbon emissions from existing FCERM infrastructure, and
  • support water connectivity for the environment and water resources management.

ADA addressed the challenge of benefit apportionment between schemes for communities facing multiple sources of flood risk and aging FCERM assets. We promoted catchment based programmes of investment as a better way forwards, where suites of projects supported by local risk management authority partners could be brought together, to maximise these benefits, increasing local support and funding opportunities.

ADA encouraged Defra to develop a revised assessment methodology for valuing productive agricultural land. This should replace the Supplementary Note to Operating Authorities: Valuation of Agricultural Land and Output for Appraisal Purposes (2008) in recognition of the transition of agricultural subsidy for land managers towards payments for public goods and ecosystem services.

ADA promoted having specific funding criteria to assist risk management authorities to manage deteriorating assets more effectively by planning for their sustainable replacement before they require emergency works. ADA highlighted the significant longer term savings this approach could achieve and help facilitate the transfer of assets to more local RMAs. Such funding criteria could also support the decarbonisation of existing assets such as pumping stations and help contribute to the UK’s net zero targets.

ADA suggested a reassessment of the current appraisal process and approval stages for FCERM schemes to reduce duplication and bureaucracy. We recommended that consideration should be given to the scale and overall cost of each scheme, and consequently the approval steps needed, to ensure that a proportionate level of detail is required to vet those funding decisions.

Finally, ADA recommended finding suitable measures to represent the value of maintaining existing assets. We think that the government should report on the number of properties that have become less well protected over given periods due to factors such as housing development, climate change and the condition of flood defence assets. Public access to such information may help engender a stronger incentive to invest in the management, maintenance and refurbishment of existing assets and systems over new projects.