Skip to main content

Flood Control

Volume 464: debated on Monday 8 October 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the policy of the Environment Agency is for handling river surges following heavy rainfall; and if he will make a statement. (153848)

The Environment Agency uses the latest technologies to monitor rainfall, river levels and sea conditions 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Once potential flooding is detected, flood warnings are issued to people and organisations in the areas at risk.

During flood events, the Environment Agency attends Gold and Silver Commands to advise on the current and forecast flooding situation. They participate in the co-ordinated response to major incidents along with the emergency services, local authorities and other bodies.

After flooding has subsided, the agency undertakes reviews of the event. These include mapping the depth and extent the water reached to improve flood risk mapping, flood forecasting and responses to town and country planning proposals. Repairs are carried out on the agency's assets and blockages that might increase the risk of flooding are removed. Drop-in centres are held for the public to share their experience and obtain advice.

The agency is investing some £436 million this year in the maintenance and improvement of river flood management measures which reduce the risks from high flood levels.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what proportion of flood defences supervised by the Environment Agency and owned by third parties were classed as in good or better condition in April 2007. (153849)

The Environment Agency monitors the condition of those flood defence assets on Main River and the coast that are maintained by third parties.

The proportion (by length) of flood defences such as raised walls and embankments, maintained by third parties, that were in good or better condition in April 2007 was 46 per cent., with a further 49 per cent. in fair condition.

The proportion (by number) of flood defence structures, such as sluices and outfalls, maintained by third parties, that were in good or better condition in April 2007 was 59 per cent., with a further 33 per cent. in fair condition.

These assessments are based on visual inspections.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs who is responsible for surface water drainage in (a) Scotland and (b) England. (154109)

This is a devolved issue, and in Scotland is the responsibility of the Scottish Executive Environment and Rural Affairs Department (SEERAD).

In England, the responsibility for managing surface water drainage is shared by several different authorities. The Environment Agency has a general supervisory duty over all matters relating to flood management and permissive powers to manage flood risk from main rivers and the sea. Local authorities are responsible for surface drainage from roads and public spaces, and the operation of highway drains; they also have permissive land drainage responsibilities for non-main rivers. Water and sewerage companies have a statutory duty to ensure the effective drainage of premises in their area, including any piped surface water arising from them. Internal drainage boards have permissive powers to undertake work to secure drainage and water level management within their districts, which cover 10 per cent. of the country's land area (mostly rural areas currently). The Highways Agency covers drainage from trunk roads.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what criteria he will use when deciding how to spend his Department's additional budget for flood defences for 2010-11; whether the money will apply to planned projects or additional projects; and how the money will be shared between capital expenditure and maintenance expenditure. (154111)

Subject to the Department's formal comprehensive spending review settlement for 2008-09 to 2010-11, allocations between operating authorities will be confirmed following the medium-term planning exercise for capital projects later this year using the prioritisation process.

At any one time, there are numerous projects at a variety of stages of development and the additional funding announced will be used to bring forward those schemes which address the highest risk from flooding and coastal erosion.

DEFRA does not fund maintenance expenditure by local authorities or internal drainage boards. While DEFRA funds the majority of the overall flood risk management activity of the Environment Agency, we look to them to decide the most appropriate balance between capital expenditure and maintaining existing defences.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when the Environment Agency expects to publish amendments to its flood risk maps available to the public on their website based on data collected from events since May 2007. (155675)

The Environment Agency expects to have reviewed the data from the summer floods and incorporated any amendments to its flood map on the internet by the end of January 2008.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what proposals he has to extend the national guidance on managing flood risk. (156181)

The Government continue to work closely with the Environment Agency, other delivery partners and stakeholders, to ensure that any guidance on managing flood risk is fit for purpose. Our “Making Space for Water” strategy is looking at a number of areas where guidance could be refined, in particular for appraisal of flood defence schemes.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what measures are being considered to create, manage and improve existing flood plans, drainage and ditches systems to act as natural flood defences for future flood protection. (156183)

The Environment Agency exercises general supervision over all matters relating to flood defence and is the principle flood risk management operating authority in England. Local authorities and internal drainage boards also have permissive powers to manage flood risk and drainage in certain areas. All operating authorities are responsible for considering appropriate measures to manage flood risk in their areas of responsibility in line with their own operational guidance and DEFRA’s policy guidance. DEFRA guidance encourages operating authorities to work with natural processes where possible, and to consider the benefits of improving the storage capacity of flood plains and ditch systems where this is a viable means of managing flood risk.

The Environment Agency also advises local planning authorities on the appropriateness and impacts of development in areas of flood risk with a view to making sure that the capacity of the functional flood plain to reduce risks is given appropriate consideration in land use planning.