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Flood Control

Volume 475: debated on Tuesday 29 April 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the capacity of internal drainage boards to undertake responsibility for flood prevention beyond their traditional locations. (201325)

The current consultation on surface water management seeks views on the role that internal drainage boards might play in producing surface water management plans in the future. It is suggested that internal drainage boards might play a greater role in managing surface water drainage in rural areas in a parallel role to the equivalent operating authority in urban areas.

The consultation suggests that operating authorities, in fulfilling their surface water drainage responsibilities, could set up a working group made up of the relevant local authorities, water companies, the Environment Agency and the relevant internal drainage boards. In certain circumstances, a local authority may choose to discharge its responsibilities for leading a surface water management plan through a relevant internal drainage board in their area. This board would then play a lead role in preparing the plan and ensuring that other operating authorities' activities are consistent with it.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which local authority areas fall within the catchment of an internal drainage board. (201779)

There are approximately 170 internal drainage boards (IDB) in England and Wales concentrated mainly in East Anglia, Yorkshire, Somerset and Lincolnshire. Most IDB catchments overlap several local authority boundaries. This means there is at least one, and usually multiple local authorities within each IDB catchment.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will encourage local authorities in areas where two tiers of local government exist to form joint bodies to oversee flood prevention measures. (201782)

Local authorities have permissive powers (but no statutory obligation) to undertake works to manage flood risk from the sea and from watercourses for which the Environment Agency and internal drainage boards do not hold such powers. In areas where there are two tiers of local government, county councils will not normally exercise such powers unless this has been requested by the district council.

The current consultation on surface water management is considering the role that local authorities might play in preparing surface water management plans. It suggests that such plans should be prepared by the same tier of authority that currently prepares strategic flood risk assessments. In two-tier authorities, this is normally the district council, although this can depend on local circumstances.

Where flooding issues cut across district boundaries within a county, district councils would provide the detailed surface water management plan as the local planning authority, with county councils potentially exercising a scrutiny function across several local authorities.

We are currently reviewing the responsibilities of all delivery bodies involved in flood risk management and will look to the recommendations from the Pitt Review to determine how any changes might be implemented.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will encourage localised measurement of rainfall to present more accurate information on potential flooding. (201783)

The Environment Agency maintains a network of 750 telemetered rain-gauges which feed data directly into computer models to forecast river levels, using the national flood forecasting system (NFFS). The Environment Agency is about to gain access to a further 110 telemetered rain-gauges that are owned by the Met Office. The Environment Agency also maintains a network of 2,250 rain-gauges across England and Wales that are monitored on a daily basis and which are used in a planning capacity to establish potential flood risk.

Due to the limitations of measuring rainfall at fixed point locations, spatial data on actual and forecast rainfall is provided by a network of weather radars (which measure rainfall to a resolution up to 1 sq km), and by the Met Office’s weather forecasting models. The Environment Agency has evaluated each area with a flood risk to ensure that each is served with information from an appropriate number of rain-gauges or data from weather radar. Where gaps are identified, then improvements in rain-gauge coverage (and/or weather radar) are under way.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what powers are available to a person who is appointed as a flood warden by a parish or town council. (201785)

The Environment Agency recently produced a policy statement on the use of flood wardens for flood warning purposes and supports the practice of using volunteers in local communities in times of flooding. Flood wardens provide community cohesion and support during and after flooding.

The Environment Agency is not aware of any powers available to volunteers who undertake this role.