Was the National Flood Resilience Review a robust response to the UK’s flooding crises?

The pledge for a £12.5m investment in temporary flood defences, the promise to persuade utilities and water companies to shoulder more of the responsibility for protecting infrastructure and the commitment to further investment in defences over the next six years, are all pragmatic and welcome measures but they all concentrate on protecting communities in the event of a flood. 

While this is a sound strategy for coastal areas, we would argue that the Review should have given equal attention to areas threatened by surface water flooding. Environment Agency figures show that 2.8m UK homes are at risk of this type of flooding, and with the expansion of towns and cities this number could easily increase without careful planning. 

As discussed in Marshalls’ recent Future Spaces report which looks at how the built environment will be shaped in the next 10 years, Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SuDS) are an incredibly important strategy for tackling surface water flooding. SuDS are absent from the Government’s Review. 

Unlike barriers and pumps which minimise damage in the event of a flood, SuDS focus on mitigating flood risk in the first place. SuDS mimic the natural drainage process, helping heavy rainfall to soak into the ground where it falls.  Ranging from a water sensitive approach to urban design, to permeable paving, rain gardens and rainwater harvesting, SuDS measures come in many forms making them highly adaptable to a range of environments, including heavily build up areas. 

SuDS were first introduced to the UK twenty years ago and accompanying legislation has been put in place, however enforcement can at best be described as sporadic. The Review fails to take the opportunity to call for more robust implementation, and in our view this is a missed opportunity. Fully realising SuDS’ potential to help manage flood risk would reduce the need for last ditch defences, which, as the report recognises, can never be relied upon to give 100% protection. 

While we acknowledge that the National Flood Defence Review was a step in the right direction, we would argue that there was too much emphasis on emergency defences from one particular type of flooding. A more balanced approach with equal focus on holding back and slowing the flow of surface water would provide a more solid foundation for a long-term solution to the flooding cries. 

Marshalls flooding expert Chris Griffiths will be holding a seminar asking ‘Can SuDS stop floods? ’ at this year’s Flood Expo. Among the topics discussed will be the acceptance and installation of SuDS and how landscapes can be adapted to manage surface water effectively. For further details, see this year’s exhibition timetable

Visit Marshalls at the Flood Expo at stand F520.