Surface Water Management – Post Pitt review

The Environment Agency estimate that three million properties are at risk of surface water flooding and that in the summer of 2007, nearly two thirds of the 55,000 properties flooded were affected by surface water.

Following this and the subsequent 2008 Pitt Review, surface water management emerged as the new kid on the block. Looking back over the last 10 years, how have things changed? Where have we got to with Surface Water Management and where are we heading?

Flood and Water Management Act of 2010

Firstly, surface water management is complex. Lift the lid on nearly any local flooding issue and it becomes complicated. Multiple sources of flooding interact and with multiple sources comes fragmented ownership of the drainage network and responsibilities for Flood Risk Management (FRM).

The Flood and Water Management Act of 2010 has changed things for the better. ‘Pre Pitt’, the silos that organisations worked in were stark. With the Act came over-arching responsibility for upper tier Local Authorities as new Lead Local Flood Authorities (LLFAs) to:

  • Co-ordinate partnership working
  • Develop a strategy for managing surface water flooding
  • Investigate flooding
  • Pull together critical asset information.

The Committee on Climate Change recognised in the 2017 Climate Change Progress Report that the responsibility for managing surface water flooding is fragmented, mostly between Lead Local Flood Authorities (LLFAs), Water Companies and Highways Authorities. The extent to which current activity is effectively tackling the current risk of flooding is unclear. It is clear however that challenges around resources, capacity and funding remain for LLFAs and so making efficiencies and sharing best practise are critical.

Future of flood risk

So, where is management of surface water flood risk heading? Both the 25-year Environment Plan and recent consultation on the National Planning Policy Framework promote a catchment-based approach. There are also several reviews ongoing and soon to be published, including the Defra review of Partnership Funding and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) Review of the effectiveness of Planning Policy in delivering SUDS. Defra have identified five action areas for strengthening surface water management and an implementation programme for these is expected imminently.

Alongside this the approach to local governance is evolving towards one of facilitating communities to support themselves. That of other stakeholders, such as Water Companies, is also changing through the Water UK 21st Century Drainage Programme to develop a framework for long-term planning for drainage and wastewater.

In light of these changes, and recognising where local FRM is now, JBA are well placed to support LLFAs to continue to develop their services, given our reputation as FRM experts and experience supporting local FRM.

Want to know more?

Email Hannah Burgess for more information on the above and to discuss your needs or visit our local flood risk management web pages.

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