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Volume 718: debated on Monday 29 March 2010


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what rules or guidelines the Environment Agency works to when drawing up flood action plans that allow the flooding of land. [HL3010]

To ask Her Majesty's Government what rules the Environment Agency considers when drawing up flood action plans that may adversely affect on the livelihood of persons in the area; how soon they inform those affected; and whether they provide support for them. [HL3011]

The Environment Agency undertakes assessments to understand the social, environmental and economic impacts of flood management measures that it is considering, It actively consults landowners and occupiers on possible future decisions.

The Environment Agency follows its project appraisal guidance when considering the most appropriate flood management options. This guidance applies the higher level HM Treasury guidance on appraisal and evaluation in Central Government (The Greenbook) (2003) and Defra's policy statement on Appraisal of Flood and Erosion Risk Management (2009). Guidance on Catchment Flood Management Plans and Shoreline Management Plans also follows those high level guidelines.

When reviewing the appropriate level of maintenance for existing flood protection schemes, four categories are considered:

assets for which there is an economic case for maintenance, to reduce the risk from flooding to people and property;

assets that are required to protect internationally designated environmental features from the damaging effect of flooding where it is sustainable to do so;

assets that do not fit categories 1 and 2 above, but where work is justified because of legal commitments or where stopping maintenance would cause an unacceptable flood risk; and

assets that do not fit the above three categories.

A category four asset will have no economic or other reason to justify continued maintenance of the flood protection scheme. Where plans may include stopping maintenance, the Environment Agency provides support by offering practical advice on future options that may be a viable alternative. This could include the landowner. If maintenance is to cease, the period of notice to the landowner or occupier must be reasonable. This would normally be within six to 24 months. Longer periods may be appropriate in some instances as the definition of what is reasonable can depend on many factors.

The Environment Agency's approach to flood action plans is based on providing effective consultation within government guidelines. This approach has been developed in full consultation with Regional Flood Defence Committee chairs.

Environment Agency guidelines set out the criteria for making decisions and provide a framework that seeks to reduce flood risk and maximise cost effectiveness across England and Wales.