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Volume 697: debated on Monday 10 December 2007

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What action they are taking to promote (a) better foundations; (b) stone floors; (c) high electrical wiring; and (d) no fixed wooden furniture on ground level for buildings constructed in areas designated as at high risk of flooding. [HL486]

Projects are under way as part of the developing cross-government strategy to improve flood risk management, “Making space for water”, to improve the flood resilience of both new and existing buildings.

In the case of new buildings, Planning Policy Statement 25, “Development and flood risk”, from the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) expressly seeks to avoid increasing flood risk as a result of development, either to the new development itself or in other areas. Where building is necessary in flood-risk areas, the policy is that it must be safe. CLG is seeking to encourage the use of flood resilience techniques and, with Defra and the Environment Agency, has published a technical guide, Improving the Flood Performance of New Buildings: Flood Resilient Construction, with the longer-term aim of developing resilience standards for building regulations, subject to the outcome of further research and consultation.

We are also seeking to encourage installation of resilience measures in existing buildings and are engaged in a pilot project to examine the feasibility of a possible grant scheme to encourage uptake, particularly in areas where community defences to reduce flood risk cannot be justified. The Environment Agency has published a damage limitation guide with CIRIA, Standards for the repair of buildings following flooding, to encourage people to consider flood-resilient walls and floors, raised wiring, switches and sockets and moveable kitchen units made of either solid wood or plastic when refurbishing their properties.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What discussions they have had with the insurance industry on (a) the costs and (b) the benefits of co-ordinated betterment in addressing the problems of buildings located in areas designated as at high risk of flooding. [HL487]

There have been regular discussions between Defra, the insurance industry and other stakeholders regarding the increased resilience of properties at risk of flooding. This has included joint workshops with the Association of British Insurers (ABI), and ongoing work around the resilience pilot grant scheme that the department is funding.

A research project is under way to develop the evidence base for flood resilience, and this will include property level estimates of costs and benefits of resilience. The ABI has been kept informed about this work at all stages.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they are taking to ensure clearer lines of responsibility for the prevention of flooding in those areas designated as at high risk. [HL574]

The Environment Agency is the principal operating authority with responsibility for flood risk management in England. It is empowered to manage flood risk from the sea and on all watercourses identified as creating the greatest flood risk.

In recent years, powers have been transferred to the Environment Agency for 1,800 further watercourse lengths, partly to clarify responsibilities. Our developing cross-government strategy to improve flood risk management, “Making space for water” intends to give the Environment Agency a strategic overview of the management of flood risk from all sources (including rivers, the sea, sewer, surface water and groundwater).

We have announced the detailed form that this new role will take on the coast and are considering how it should be applied inland. As with the coastal overview role, inland changes will be informed by public consultation.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they anticipate coming to conclusions on the effective prioritisation process for the Environment Agency's capital programme for the fund for flood defences; and whether they will publish their findings and those of the public consultation. [HL681]

The Environment Agency and Defra are continuing work on a revised prioritisation process for the Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Capital programme. The findings of this work will be published in due course.

Written responses to the public consultation, Outcome Measures and prioritisation approaches for flood and coastal erosion risk management, are available on the Defra website.