Better protection for homes and communities from flooding and drought

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Communities, homes and businesses will be better protected from the risk of flooding and water shortages in future under plans published in the Flood and Water Management Bill by Defra today. The Bill addresses many of the recommendations from Sir Michael Pitt’s review of the summer 2007 floods.  It will give the authorities that manage flood risk better powers to do so, putting local authorities in charge of dealing with local flood risk and the Environment Agency in charge of overseeing flooding and coastal erosion nationally. 

In addition to the provisions in the Bill, the Government is providing more funding than ever before for maintenance of traditional flood defences to protect communities around the country.

The Bill will:

  • Include sustainable drainage systems in all new building developments and redevelopments where possible in future, to help protect against surface water flooding;
  • Give new roles and responsibilities to local authorities to manage surface water flooding - which was the cause of two thirds of the severe flooding in parts of the country in 2007 - to help better protect the public;
  • Enable water companies to operate concessionary schemes for community and voluntary groups for surface water drainage charges, to reduce unaffordable rises in their bills;
  • Improve the safety of communities living close to reservoirs by prioritising inspections and maintenance;
  • Further protect the interests of water customers through a special administration regime; and
  • Introduce stronger powers for hosepipe bans to make the system fairer for everyone and enable water companies to conserve more water earlier on in a drought.

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said:

“We must do everything we can to try to reduce the chances of something like the 2007 floods happening again, although we know that in future climate change will bring more extreme weather including heavier rain, and we’ve seen from the weather in the last couple of weeks that the risk of flooding is very real.

“Sir Michael Pitt’s report recommended important changes – the Flood and Water Management Bill will implement the most important of these to provide better management of flood risk, clarify responsibilities, protect water supplies, and safeguard community groups from unaffordable rises in water bills.”

The measures in the Bill will build on the action the Government has taken since the devastating floods of summer 2007 to ensure that the five million people living in flood risk areas around the country are better protected. These actions include:

  • Setting up a Flood Forecasting Centre, jointly run by the Environment Agency and Met Office, to improve the way we predict potential flooding and the exchange of information between emergency services, so the right help can get to the right people quickly;
  • A £5 million grant scheme for householders for property-level flood protection like air bricks and door boards;
  • A £2 million for flood rescue capability such as rescue boats;
  • £15 million funding to local authorities to help them manage local flood risk;
  • 102 flood defence schemes completed and maintained by the Environment Agency, protecting over 63,000 additional homes in England.  Operating authorities are currently on course to exceed delivery targets and provide better protection to 160,000 homes over the three years to March 2011;
  • 140,000 additional people registering to receive flood warnings in England and Wales; and
  • £5 million spent by the Environment Agency on repairing defences damaged during summer 2007.

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