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MPs criticise Defra’s ‘ineffective’ response to flood prevention report

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee has criticised the government for failing to act on the country’s “ineffective” flood protection measures, leaving communities across England at risk.

EFRA’s previous flood prevention report, published last November, recommended that the government take action in order to improve local communities’ flood protection measures, which it said were “fragmented, inefficient and ineffective”.

However, MPs have found that the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) has “failed to give sufficient justification” for dismissing the key recommendations of the report and have urged the government to acknowledge the scale of change needed.

Jim Fitzpatrick MP, EFRA’s acting chair, said: “People living in areas of flood risk need to be reassured that the government is acting to improve our disjointed flood management system.

“Ministers must give us more detailed information on how the government is using its £2.5bn flood defence budget to slow the flow of water across river catchments so as to stop communities flooding in future.”

In its report the committee had called upon Defra to reassure local communities by enforcing stronger planning and building rules on local authorities and developers, such as consulting water and sewage companies regarding the flood risk of new builds – along with wider flood insurance coverage.

The committee’s other recommendations included making it obligatory for the Fire and Rescue Service to provide emergency response to floods and the appointment of a National Flood Commissioner to bring greater co-ordination between bodies.

Cllr Martin Tett, the environment spokesman for the LGA, reiterated that devolving flood defence funding to councils is key to protecting communities from the devastation of flooding in the future.

“Councils make considerable contributions to flood defences yet they have little control over where the money is spent,” Cllr Tett said. “Councils are generally opposed to building property on floodplains and 99.7% of the 66,132 new homes in 2015-16, where the Environment Agency were consulted, had planning outcomes in line with Environment Agency advice.

“Where building does take place on a floodplain, the local authority would need to be reassured that adequate defences were in place so that the risk of flooding would be minimised and that measures would be in place to prevent or minimise water from entering homes.”

Cllr Tett added that the government should also introduce mandatory anti-flood requirements for new homes into building regulations in order to safeguard households against future floods.

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