Flooding -  We're planning for the wrong future

Guest Blog: Building Magazine

06 March 2014

 

Alastair Moseley, honorary vice-president of the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management, director of environmental management consultant H2O WEM and government adviser.

 

Following the catastrophic floods of 2007, Sir Michael Pitt undertook one of the most comprehensive surveys ever made of the causes of flooding. The recommendations of the 2008 Pitt Review remain totally valid following the recent floods. Seven years on and it would seem that the recommendations have either not been followed or have been poorly implemented.

 

Pitt recommended that we needed to adopt an integrated and collaborative approach to managing surface water run-off and associated flooding led by suitably skilled and knowledgeable local authorities. I believe that Pitt’s recommendation of following such an integrated approach is the only sustainable option. There is no magic bullet to eliminating flood risk in the UK. Our climate is changing and rainfall patterns are becoming more erratic, severe and damaging. We need to manage flood risk through what is termed “a package of measures” on three levels: regional, local and on an individual property basis.

 

The national agencies should focus on regional flood management, keeping the rivers within their channels and flood plains.

 

Local authorities and water companies should ensure that our towns and cities are designed to channel water away from property to safe “holding” areas as well as working with landowners upstream of urban environments to hold back surface water and prevent run-off into urban areas. And individual communities should take responsibility for defending their properties against flooding through property-level flood protection and emergency planning.

For this to happen we need strong leadership from local government and sound advice from flood risk experts. Above all, we need integration and collaboration. Planning property and infrastructure development and maintenance in isolation is no longer an option. After all, rainfall and flood water do not recognise the boundaries between organisations.