Several million properties in England are at risk of flooding, according to the Environment Agency. It is not possible to prevent all flooding or coastal erosion, but the impacts on communities can be reduced with effective flood and coastal erosion risk management (known as FCERM).
Flood risk management in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is the responsibility of the devolved administrations. Section 6 of this paper provides information on the approach in the devolved nations.
Who is responsible for managing flooding?
In England, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs leads on FCERM and provides funding for projects. They are mostly delivered through the Environment Agency.
The Environment Agency produces a national flood and coastal erosion risk management strategy for England. The current strategy was published in July 2020, alongside a new Government policy statement on FCERM. Both the policy statement and the strategy focus on “resilience” to flood risk.
There are several authorities involved in managing flood risk in England, including: the Environment Agency; regional flood and coastal committees; lead local flood authorities; local authorities; and internal drainage boards.
Importantly, all powers relating to flooding and land drainage are permissive, so the bodies involved do not have a duty to take action. Landowners have the main responsibility for safeguarding their land and property against flooding.
Funding for defences and management
Funding for flood defences is regularly debated and scrutinised, often to compare between Governments and across regions.
By the end of the 2017-19 Parliament, the Government was committed to investing £2.6 billion in capital funding for flood defences between 2015/16 and 2020/21. In March 2020, the Government announced that in the next six-year investment programme (beginning in 2021/22) the total capital budget would double to £5.2 billion.
Funding for flood risk management is complex. The Environment Agency gets grant-in-aid (GiA) funding directly from the Government and spends some of this directly on FCERM activities. However, risk management authorities can also apply to the EA for GiA funding for local projects. A project is assessed for GiA based on how much public benefit it will have. If it only qualifies for part-funding from GiA, the funds can be topped up through partnership funding from other, local sources.