Don't 'neglect' flood defence maintenance, EFRA tells government
The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA) has told the government not to neglect maintenance of flood defences and watercourses to ensure better protection for properties against future flood risk. The warning follows EFRA's inquiry into last winter's floods.
EFRA said: "Repairing and replacing damaged flood defence assets following the winter storms is an immediate concern, but longer-term issues such as improving resilience to withstand future flooding events must not be overlooked."
In the report on winter floods, published today, the committee calls for:
- Fully funded plans to address the current backlog of dredging and watercourse maintenance as well as to maintain the growing numbers of man-made flood defences
- Regular work to dredge and keep rivers clear can be an essential flood prevention measure, yet this is exactly what gets squeezed out when budgets are tight
- Address the confusion over maintenance responsibilities through a widespread education campaign.
- A reassurance from Defra that frontline flood jobs at the Environment Agency will not be cut
Anne McIntosh, EFRA chair, said: "We have repeatedly called on the government to increase revenue funding so that necessary dredging and watercourse maintenance can be carried out to minimise flood risk, yet funding for maintenance remains at a bare minimum. Ministers must take action now to avoid a repeat of the devastation caused by the winter floods."
"The government needs to recognise the importance of regular maintenance work and put it on an equal footing with building new defences."
EFRA identified the current split between capital and revenue budgets as a major barrier to targeting funding according to local priorities. "We want clarity for everyone when it comes to flood funding budgets," said McIntosh. "We see no reason why the government cannot move to a total expenditure approach for flood funding to allow more flexibility to spend in the most effective way."
The importance of land drainage should not be underestimated, said the committee. It said local solutions and local drainage history in the relevant catchment area should be considered when deciding on measures to prevent flood risk.
The benefits of dredging, where appropriate, need to be sustained through routine maintenance. EFRA said this work is too often neglected "until a need is created for costly one-off capital investment".
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