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England’s floodplains no longer working, study suggests

Words: Laura Edgar
Floodplains / Shutterstock_173388581

A new study has suggested that 90 per cent of floodplains in England have changed so much that they no longer work properly.

Conducted by the University of Salford and published by Co-op Insurance, Changing face of floodplains notes that semi-natural woodland and rough grassland together now only occupy 6 per cent of all floodplain area.

Wetland communities – fen, marsh and swamp – have been reduced to less than half of the total floodplain area.

This means that the water flows across floodplains with increased speed, flooding towns and villages more quickly, Co-op Insurance said.

George Heritage, from the university and co-author of the study, said in The Guardian that floodplains have been ignored.

Over five million people in the UK are at risk of flooding, with more than 6,000 homes affected by flooding caused by Storm Desmond in 2015.

Citing the River Eden, in Cumbria, the study states that in 1890, the length of the river was 2270.3km. In 2016 it measured 3439.71km, an increase of 1169.41km. Co-op Insurance said this has resulted in floodwater moving downstream more rapidly towards towns and villages.

Co-op Insurance has launched a tool kit in response to the university’s findings. It comprises three stages:

  • Plant smart: This could be new trees, hedges, shrubs and bushes near the riverbank to help intercept and slow the flow of water.
  • Encourage regrowth: Remove bottom branches from mature trees in winter to encourage new branches to grow, helping to make them thicker and bushier. This will help to intercept and slow the flow of water.
  • Infiltration station: Areas where water accumulates should be targeted to encourage infiltration. This could be pits with gravel infill as they require little to no maintenance.

Image credit | Shutterstock