Winter 2004

Making Space for Water

Article by Graham Lymbery, Project Leader, Coastal defence Sefton Council

Developing a new Government strategy for flood and coastal erosion risk management in England - consultation document

Aim: for a new Government strategy for flood and coastal erosion risk management in England

To manage the risks from flooding and coastal erosion in an integrated and holistic way, employing a portfolio of approaches, so as to reduce the threat to human life and property while furthering sustainable development and the strategic objectives of the Government; and to secure rational funding mechanisms that deliver appropriate levels of investment.

In the Summer 2004 issue of Coastlines I wrote a brief article about the Foresight Report that examined future flooding scenarios. I also described how the implications of this report on Government policy would need to be considered. Perhaps surprisingly this has already been done, 'Making Space For Water' represents the launch of a consultation exercise relating to a new Government-wide strategy for managing risks from flooding and coastal erosion in England. This strategy is informed by the Foresight Report and represents a more holistic approach to this subject than has previously been the case.

In what way more holistic? This subject has been examined not only in terms of the benefits and costs associated with flooding and coastal erosion but also in relation to other DEFRA (Dept. for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs - responsible for flood and coastal defence) strategies such as Natural Resource Protection and Sustainable Rural Communities. It also considers other Government policies and their relationship to this strategy, such as planning and development policy.

The major new inclusions in this strategy are flooding from groundwater, sewers and the transport network. Currently no national authority has a duty to address flooding from groundwater and the extent of the problem has only recently been assessed. With regard to the sewers and transport network their inclusion is recognition of their close relationship to flooding, both in terms of problems that occur when they flood and how they can contribute to flooding problems.

The section of this consultation that has the most potential to influence the Sefton coast is that relating to coastal issues, this focuses on the governance arrangements for the coast and how long-term strategic planning and decision-making will be undertaken. At present both the Environment Agency and Local Authorities have powers in relation to flooding in coastal areas whilst only Local Authorities have powers in relation to coastal erosion. As there are some disadvantages to this overlapping responsibility the Government wants to consider if any other arrangement might be more beneficial. Options being considered are giving the Environment Agency responsibility for all flooding issues on the coast, giving a national authority responsibility for all flooding and erosion risks on the coast or giving local authorities responsibility for all flooding and coastal erosion issues on the coast. All this needs to be considered within the context of changing approaches to strategic planning such as Integrated Coastal Zone Management, The Water Framework Directive and Shoreline Management Plans.

A pdf version of the consultation document can be found at: