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In the autumn and winter of 2019-20, heavy rainfall and storms led to flooding in various parts of the UK. This led to homes being evacuated, transport disruption and loss of life. In some places, pumps were set up to reduce water levels, and in certain instances the military were called in to assist. The Environment Agency said in March 2020 that 127,000 properties had been protected by flood defences over the course of the winter.

After severe flooding in northern areas of England in November, rivers were expected to respond quickly to any future rainfall with so much water remaining in river catchments. Further flooding occurred in the south of England in December 2019, and Storms Ciara and Dennis brought substantial damage in February 2020 to areas including the Pennines and counties either side of the England/Wales border.

Estimates have put expected insurance payouts as a result of the flooding in the hundreds of millions of pounds. The Government made several announcements of support for those affected, including activating the Bellwin Scheme and the Flood Recovery Framework.

Parliament was not sitting when the November flooding began, and initial reactions to the severe weather events played out against the backdrop of the general election campaign. Some parties called on the Government to declare a “national emergency” and criticised levels of investment in flood risk management, while other commentators suggested that dredging rivers of silt would have reduced the risk. When Parliament returned, a number of statements and debates were held in relation to the floods, while issues including insurance and planning received renewed attention.

The Government currently has a six-year capital investment programme worth £2.6 billion in flood and coastal erosion risk management (FCERM), which runs from 2015 to 2021. A section of the paper outline current flood investment spending.

This paper provides an outline of the flood events in the autumn and winter of 2019-20 in the context of earlier extreme weather, and refers to some initial assessments of the impact of the flooding. It also summarises the various support measures announced by the Government, and political and stakeholder reactions. A list of suggested further reading is provided at the end of the paper.


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