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MPs call for Cabinet flooding and drought ‘champion’

Words: Simon Wicks
Flooding outside a house

An influential committee of MPs has called for flood protection to be given the same priority as HS2, with the appointment of a Cabinet 'champion' to deliver a long-term strategy.

In a new report Living with water (PDF), the All Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment is calling for a coordinated and sustainable water management strategy to protect homes and infrastructure against the effects of flooding and drought that are the results of increased urbanisation and climate change.

Citing Environment Agency estimates that some 5.2 million homes are currently at risk of flooding, the report argues that the best way to address water issues is for an incoming government to give flooding and drought the same level of priority as HS2.

“Despite the increasing challenges, flood resilience and water management still remains a Cinderella issue at the highest political level,” the report says, “though it’s importance is no less than that of transport and power and it should have the same political priority as the development of High Speed 2.”

The report goes on to say: “We need a fundamental change in how we view flood management, from flood defence where we protect ourselves, to one of resilience, living with and making space for water.”

It argues that building Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) – which mimic nature – should be a key part of the strategy. It says the government is mistaken in its U-turn which means it will now not implement Schedule 3 of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010. The Act sets out a plan for the adoption and maintenance of SuDS through council-run SUDs Approval Bodies.

The Group's chairman, Conservative MP Oliver Colville, said: “Increased urbanisation and climate change is likely to increase the risk of flooding and our entire national infrastructure including water supply and our drainage network is under threat, which poses both societal and economic disruption. Failure to take the issue of comprehensive water management much more seriously will have severe economic impacts on UK plc.”

The report’s recommendations include:

- Clear leadership on water issues with the appointment of a Cabinet champion to manage a long-term strategy

- A strategic land review placing water and climate change alongside other emerging priorities

- Greater maintenance funding for flood protection

- Retrofitting towns and cities for resilience

- Better design standards for developments to reduce water run off from buildings, including new Building Regulations for flood resistance.

Download Living with water (PDF) from the Construction Industry Council website