Flood management plans

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Glossary of Key Terms

Catchment Flood Management Plans (CFMP's) - ‘set out the policy for managing flood risk in a catchment over the next 50 to 100 years, taking into account various factors over the long term, such as climate change and property development, so that decisions about construction and maintenance can be made in the context of the catchment as a whole' (EA, 2009a).

Shoreline Management Plans (SMP's) - ‘high level plans recommending long term and sustainable policies for flood and coastal erosion risk management for a length of coastline' (Defra, 2009).


A flood can be defined as any high flow, overflow, or inundation by water which causes or threatens damage (NOAA, 2009). In England and Wales, the Environment Agency (EA) predict that over 5 million people live and work in properties that are at risk from flooding from rivers or the sea (EA, 2009). Flood defences have been built throughout history to stop or reduce the effects of flooding. The Environmental Agency's National Flood and Coastal Defence Database indicates that there are 24,000 miles of flood defences and 46,000 flood defence structures protecting properties in England (HOC, 2007).

There are typically two types of defence, hard or soft. Hard defences include embankments, walls, weirs, sluices and pumping stations; the Thames Barrier in London is a good example of a hard engineering flood .Soft defences may use mudflats and saltmarshes to provide space for floodwater and prevent flooding from occurring elsewhere (EA, 2009).

In recent years the UK has experienced a number of catastrophic flooding events, such as; in 2000 severe flooding affected many parts of the UK, among the worst hit where York, Shrewsbury, Lewes, Uckfield and Maidstone. In 2004 Boscastle, Cornwall suffered extreme flooding and in the summer of 2007, floods affected many parts of the UK, especially the Sheffield area, Hull, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire (Met Office, 2000). The floods mentioned demonstrate the lack of necessary flood defence/ management in the UK, and show the vulnerability of our key infrastructure to flooding. Sir Michael Pitt has reviewed this situation in the Pitt Review and given recommendations to government (Pitt, 2008).

This brief report aims to summarise how flood defences are planned, funded and appraised in the UK. It also strives to critically appraise and outline the issues that are shaping the development of the UK's national flooding strategy in relation to EU strategy. The report begins by explaining the planning, funding and appraisal aspects of flood defence in the UK. It then moves on to outline EU and UK strategies to flood management, which are compared for similarities. To finish, key issues which are shaping the UK's strategy to flood management are discussed.

Part 1 - How Flood Defences are Planned, Funded and Appraised

In this section details of how flood defences are planned, funded and appraised will be discussed. In short, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has overall policy responsibility for flooding in England. It is however the Environment Agency (EA) and Local Authorities (LA) who hold full responsibility to build and design flood defences with guidance from Defra (EC, 2009). Table 1 separates the UK's devolved administrations and provides a summary of the responsible bodies in terms of policy, planning and implementation, and funding.

It is important to note, as not shown in Table 1, that Regional Flood Defence Committees (RFDCs) also play a role by overseeing the maintenance or improvement of sea and tidal defences (EC, 2009). The report will now look briefly at the planning, funding and appraisal methodologies for flood defence in the UK. Due to the scope of this report England will be the focused devolved administration. For a brief explanation of the other administrations please see Appendix (a).

1.1 Planning

Planning is the process of thinking about the activities required to create a desired goal. Defra creates large scale plans for authorities to use. The development of a strategic framework for flood and coastal erosion risk management has been based on Shoreline Management Plans (SMPs) and Catchment Flood Management Plans (CFMPs). These national plans provide a framework, at a catchment or coastal process cell scale, for local risk management planning and decisions, including investment in structural and non-structural solutions to specific problems (Defra, 2009).

As seen in Table 1, flood defences in England are planned by the EA in collaboration with LA's. It is important that these plans fit in with the CFMP's and SMP's so that they are not restricted in their view in terms of scale and longevity. Guidance notes from Defra in the ‘Flood and Coastal Defence Appraisal Guidance' document the EA and LA a framework in which flood defences are to be planned.

The national plans establish areas which need to be addressed in terms of flood management using large scales, catchment or coastal cell and over a long period. It is then up to the region to conduct regional flood risk assessments. On the basis of these assessments, the EA and LA will address flood defence options for specific areas. It is important to note here that flood plans have to be co-ordinated with other relevant planning initiatives (Text Box 1). In turn the findings from flood and coastal erosion plans should also influence other planning initiatives in an interactive cycle (Defra, 2009), for example;

Under the Aarhus convention (1998) public participation is required in the planning phase. This lengthens the process but gives a greater sense of approval for a project in a bottom up fashion; hence the value of the scheme is increased.

1.2 Funding

Defra funds most of the EA flood management activities and provides grant aid to local authorities to support investments in capital infrastructure projects (EC, 2009). These are done on a ‘project by project' basis from a central fund and are scored against national priorities to assess their suitability for funding (HOC, 2007). Each potential project is assessed against three factors:

Suitability for Funding


The financial benefits of a proposed flood defence compared to the estimated cost of construction;


The number of houses protected for each £1,000 spent


The impact of a scheme on wildlife habitats and conservation areas.

Table 2 - Project to Project Assessment Criteria (HOC, 2007)

Although initial funds are established through grant aid LA's are responsible for the maintenance cost. LA budgets distributed by the Department of Communities and Local Government provide the funding for this. The EA only covers the maintenance cost of the defence structures that fall under their respective responsibility (EC, 2009). Issues associated with funding appraisal are discussed in the second half of this report. Graph 1 shows the expenditure on flood risk management for England between 2000 and predicted 2011. It can be seen that there has been a marked increase in funding since 2000 with predicted expenditure to rise even more into the future.

1.3 Appraisal

Appraisal involves gathering information and comparing options in a consistent way in order to support good decision-making and avoid bad decisions (Defra, 2009). It provides a structured approach for assessing the risk from flooding in a given location, area or region but is also necessary to justify Government spending in flood risk management.

The appraisal process is tiered into three parts. Table 3 separates the three stages and gives a detailed break down of what each stage should include;

3 Stage Approach to Appraisal

Stage 1: Define issues and set objectives

Objective setting

Involving stakeholders

Statutory requirements

Other legal requirements

Multi-objective projects

Strategic context

Environmental enhancements

Stage 2: Develop, describe and value options

Appraisal Summary Tables

Range of options

Baseline option

Assess impacts

Whole life costs and appraisal time frame

Climate change impacts and adaptation

Legal requirements


Multi criteria techniques

Valuing impacts on property

Valuation impacts on land

Valuation of ecosystem services

Valuation flood warning benefits

Standard approaches

Taxes and other transfer payments


Corrections for optimism bias


Distributional impacts

Stage 3: Compare the options and select the preferred approach

Appraisal summary table

The screening of unviable options

Transparent decision-making

The selection of the preferred option through : à

Cost-benefit analysis

Multi-criteria approaches

Cost-effectiveness analysis

Incremental benefit-cost ratio

Legal obligations

Outcome measures

Table 3 - Detailed Appraisal Process (Adapted from Defra, 2009)

Stage one requires a definition of the issue considered; stage two develops a full range of possible options and describes these options. Evaluations of the positive and negative impacts of each option are discussed. Then finally in stage three a comparison of the options is done in a systematic way in order to select the most appropriate option.

Defra provide extensive guidelines on how appraisal of projects should be carried out, some of the requirements include;

Sustainable Development Principles

v Living within environmental limits

v Ensuring a strong, healthy and just society

v Achieving a sustainable economy

v Promoting good governance

v Using sound science responsibly

Table 4 - Sustainable Development Principles

  • As Table 4 shows, sustainable development principles are a key aspect on the approval of a project.
  • A ‘risk based approach' is required which normally fits into the wider SMP's or CFMP's and ensures integrated and sustainable management approaches take place.
  • A ‘no regrets' approach should be taken where all aspects are justified.
  • The precautionary principle should be used where applicable.

An important part of the appraisal process, within stage two, is the cost-benefit analysis. This process involves determining the cost of the structure and its maintenance over a period of years and whether this is feasible in light of the property/land it is saving from flooding. It is expressed as a ratio of benefit to cost. By comparing the costs and benefits of each option the most economic solution can be found. Figure 3, gives a clearer indication of how the appraisal process is undertaken.

Part 2 - Critically appraise and outline the issues that are shaping the development of a national UK strategy to flooding and how this links to EU strategy

In order to critically appraise the issues shaping the development of the UK strategy to flooding this section starts by outlining the EU and UK strategies. The issues associated are then discussed. Table 5 summarises important EU directives associated with flooding. These directives have developed in accordance with increased flooding within the EU over the last 10 years.

EU Strategy to Flood Management

Water Framework Directive (WFD)


The WFD Directive requires that all surface waters and groundwaters within defined river basin districts must reach at least ‘good' status by 2015. It will do this for each river basin district (WFDIC, 2009). This Directive has been said to ‘shift the focus of policy-making from addressing problems individually, to integrated river basin management…Article 1 of the Directive not only requires Member States to achieve ecological standards for waters, but also lists “mitigating the effects of floods and droughts” among its objectives…A comprehensive river basin planning approach should include land use planning and agricultural policies, not only to achieve “good ecological status”, but also to prevent floods' (EC, 2005).

EU Floods Directive: Assessment and Management of Flood Risks


This Directive requires a three stage approach to managing all types of flooding except flooding from sewerage systems which may be excluded:

1. A Preliminary Flood Risk Assessment (PFRM's)

2. Mapping of significant flood risks

3. Preparation of plans to manage the risks

(Defra, 2009)

2.1 EU Strategy

Table 5 - EU Strategy to Flood Management

By taking a ‘river basin planning approach' (WFD, 2000), the life cycle of water through basins is taken account of. It is this aspect of the WFD that has really helped to change flood management within the Europe. The Floods directive is much more comprehensive in terms of flood management with the determination of where significant flood risks are likely through PFRM's and maps but also how to manage these risks are necessary. For more information and the time frame for member states to adopt the Floods directive see Table 8, Appendix (b).

As a member state the UK has to comply with EU legislation, therefore the WFD and soon the Floods Directive should be reflected in our flooding strategy. It is worth noting here that the flood management strategies provided by the EU have come from best practice from its member states. The UK's important programmes, policy and legislation regarding flooding and flood management are summarised in Table 6.

2.2 UK Strategy

UK Strategy to Flooding

Making Space for Water 2005

Making Space for Water is the cross Government programme taking forward the developing strategy for flood and coastal erosion risk management in England. The programme consists of 25 separate projects composed of four key themes:

1. Holistic approach

2. Achieving sustainable development

3. Increasing resilience to flooding

4. Funding

(Defra, 2008).

The aim of the programme is to manage the risks from flooding and coastal erosion by employing an integrated portfolio of approaches which reflect both national and local priorities, so as:

* to reduce the threat to people and their property;

* to deliver the greatest environmental, social and economic benefit, consistent with the Government's sustainable development principles.

* to secure efficient and reliable funding mechanisms that deliver the levels of investment required to achieve the vision of this strategy.

(Defra, 2005)

Sir Michaels Pitt Review 2007

Following the summer floods in June and July 2007 the Government called for an independent review of flood risk management in England and Wales. This was the biggest review of flood risk management ever conducted. 92 recommendations where the result of this review, with 6 main themes:

1. Knowing when and where it will flood;

2. Improved planning and reducing the risk of flooding and its impact;

3. Being rescued and cared for in an emergency;

4. Maintaining power and water supplies and protecting essential services;

5. Better advice and helping people to protect their families and homes; and

6. Staying healthy and speeding up recovery.

(Tubby & Bagley, 2009)

Draft Flood and Water Management Bill 2009

The aims of the Draft Bill include;

* Provide better, more sustainable flood and coastal erosion risk management for people, homes, and businesses;

* Make clear who is responsible for managing all sources of flood risk;

* Protect essential water supplies by enabling water companies to control more non-essential uses of water during droughts;

* Modernise the law for managing the safety of reservoirs;

* Encourage more sustainable forms of drainage in new developments;

* Make it easier to resolve misconnections to sewers

(Defra, 2009a)

Table 6 - UK Flooding Strategy

The UK is in the process of creating a more sustainable approach to flood management. Protecting from the effects of flooding has changed from flood defence to flood risk management. This new way of thinking has developed over time. This can be seen in the UK's latest Bill, Flood and Water Management and the EU directives, WFD and the Floods Directive.

The UK has developed a draft Flood and Water Management Bill for a number of reasons. Some of which are discussed later in Table 7. The draft Bill will be able to transpose the EU Floods Directive by placing new duties on the EA and LA's to cooperate and share data (UK Groundwater Forum, 2009). This will help England and Wales to develop and update their flood risk tools (Text Box 2).

There are many reasons and issues which are shaping the developments of flood management within the UK; these are now explored in Table 7.

2.3 Issues



Outdated: Flood and coastal erosion risk management in the UK reflects outdated approaches (Defra, 2009a)

A lot of coastal defence structures where built in the 1930's and 1940's, as these come to the end of their life decisions need to be made whether to ‘hold the line', ‘manage retreat', etc the issues arise when deciding what to save and what to leave (see appraisal section). Defences were typically built to withstand the risk of a one-in a hundred year flood, but the EA estimated that some of the June 2007 floods were in excess of one-in-140 year to one-in-150 year events (HOC, 2007). Perhaps an even longer time scale is required.

Gaps: Pitt review revealed gaps in flood risk management.

The 92 recommendations from Sir Michael Pitt along with the Making Space for Water Programme formed the basis for flood management reform in the UK.

Climate change: predicted to increase flooding and coastal erosion, increase sea level, and increase storminess. Changing patterns of rainfall will have knock of effects to river flows and increase surface water flooding. The Future Flooding report found that flood damages could increase in real terms by between 2 and 20 times by the 2080s due the effects of climate change (Defra, 2008a).

All current directives and legislation within the flood management area take account of climate change as well as can be expected planning up to hundreds of years ahead. Also managing for uncertainty and using the precautionary principle are useful tools in helping to manage for climate change.

Funding: of flood management schemes

As has been identified in part 1 of this report there are issues with gaining grants from the government to deal with flood management. There are limited funds available for local authorities through the scheme. The process is conducted on a project-by-project basis. Although as seen in graph 1 funding is set to increase into the future without the correct methods for disseminating the funds no real progress will be made.

Devolved administrations:

The UK is made up of 4 devolved administrations all with their own flood management policy and strategies. If flood management was to be truly holistic as much of the current legislation from the EU requires then an approach to co-ordinate the effects of each devolved administration would be needed.

Increased development on flood plains: ‘English towns and cities are located close to rivers and coasts….As a densely populated and highly urbanised coastal country we have a serious flood risk' (Defra, 2008a).

Being a coastal country means that our most valuable assets, homes, industry, etc, all face enormous pressure from flooding. Developers ignoring the EA's advice on where to build are increasing the number of people living in flood risk areas. Tighter restrictions are required to combat this.

Land management: Increasing the amount of hard surfaces is reducing the capacity of the ground to absorb water, thus further increasing flood risk.

Without soil as a natural buffer our drainage systems are put under increasing pressure during high rainfall, as was the case in 2007. Therefore SUDS (Sustainable Drainage Systems) are of high importance for the future.

Drains: Flooding from sewage drains is not included in the EU Floods Directive. This was one of the major issues in the summer 2007 floods as recognised by Sir Michael Pitt.

As the EU does not recognise this type of flooding in its directive the UK needs to take account itself and produce a system to cope with this issue. The drainage boards need to work closely with the EA and other relevant bodies to ensure drains are able to cope with the increased load during high rainfall and flash floods. Integrated urban drainage management will be needed to do this effectively.

Placing onus on stakeholders: It is proposed in the EU Floods Directive that LA's should be responsible for preparing PFRA's for ordinary watercourses, surface run-off and groundwater flood risk. The areas at significant risk to flooding will also be dealt with by LA's but with EA support (UK Groundwater Forum, 2009).

Co-ordination of PFRA's and flood hazard maps will be needed so that all LA's work in a coherent fashion so that data is assembled in a manner that can be used by the government. It is proposed that the EA in its strategic overview role should mitigate the way data is assembled (UK Groundwater Forum, 2009).

Table 7 - Issues Surrounding Flood Management in the UK


To conclude, part one of the report has shown that the method for planning, funding and appraising flood defences in the UK varies between each devolved administration. This report focused on England and found that the large regional and coastal cell planning is conducted by Defra through SMP's and CFMP's. With these and other planning policies in mind it is the job of the EA and LA's to plan smaller scale flood management schemes. Guidance notes are given from Defra to help with this. It was found that public participation was required in order to give onus of plans to the local communities.

It was established that the funding of flood management schemes is conducted on a project to project basis where initial funds are granted from the Government (Defra) and the maintenance costs reside with the local communities and EA where appropriate. In order to appraise a flood management scheme a three tiered approach is taken with cost-benefit analysis playing a large role in order to justify Government spending. The appraisal guidance notes from Defra give key approaches to take when appraising a project, some of which include; a no regrets approach, sustainability and use of the precautionary principle.

By identifying the manner in which flood defence/ management schemes are planned, funded and appraised some issues have arisen; in particular the way in which flood schemes are funded on a project to project basis.

The second half of the report has tried to identify key areas of flood management in EU and UK law in order to highlight areas which overlap and areas where issues have arisen. The ‘WFD' and ‘Floods Directive' where identified as key directives shaping the way member states manage flood risk. These directives have shaped the way the UK has formulated its policy as being a member state it must comply with European law. The key programmes, policies and strategies identified for the UK include; ‘Making Space for Water', ‘The Pitt Review' and the ‘draft Flood and Water Management Bill'.

Issues which where identified show gaps in UK law which should be addressed as the draft Flood and Water Management Bill comes to power. The issues discussed have mainly come from the Pitt Review and are limited to the scope of this essay. There may be many more issues shaping the development of the UK's strategy to flood management. As the draft Bill passes through parliament and becomes an Act and the deadlines for PFRA's etc are reached the state of the UK's flood risk strategy will become much more coherent and comprehensive.


Appendix (a) - Planning, Funding and Appraisal in devolved administrations other than England


The Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) provides a similar role in Wales as Defra does in England having the policy responsibility for flood and coastal defences. The local authorities provide protection from coastal erosion and contribute to flood protection, while the Environment Agency contributes to tidal or sea flood defence. Local authorities use their own funds for maintenance but also apply to WAG for the capital expense of schemes which are funded on a project-by-project basis (EC, 2009).

The Environment Agency receives financial support from WAG for defences as well as capital tidal or sea flood measures. As in England, there are Regional Flood Defence Committees, known as Welsh Regional Flood Defence Committees. They are supported by Local Flood Defence Committees responsible for determining the programme of maintenance and capital works carried out by the Environment Agency (EC, 2009).


The Scottish Government (SG) is responsible for overseeing coastal protection and flooding policy in Scotland. Local authorities carry out their own coastal protection works, subject to the approval of the SG. In the past, the SG has funded up to 80% of the capital building cost, but as of 2008 the local authorities have to fund all of their own work. As in the rest of the UK, coastal protection works are done under permissive powers and on private land, it is the owner's responsibility to manage and prevent erosion. Any proposed coastal defence work always requires the consent of the relevant local authority before implementation (EC, 2009).

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, the Rivers Agency, within the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development of Northern Ireland, provides and maintains sea defences. A main difference between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK is that the local authorities do not have direct responsibility for coastal protection from flooding or erosion other than that the ‘Bateman formula' can be applied. According to this interdepartmental agreement, coastal protection works that are deemed necessary are carried out by the department or authority responsible for the asset at risk. When the need arises, the River Agency will undertake essential works which do not fall under the responsibility of other authorities (EC, 2009).

Appendix (b) - Tools for Managing of Flood Risk




Preliminary Flood Risk Assessment

To review historic flooding and its potential future impact drawing on available or readily derivable information

22 December 2011

Significant Risk Areas

To identify areas that are at potentially significant flood risk

No formal deadline

Flood Hazard Maps

To show the possible extent of flooding under different scenarios in significant risk areas

22 December 2013

Flood Risk Maps

To show the potential impact in significant areas

22 December 2013

Flood Risk Management Plan

Defining objectives and measures to decrease the likelihood or impact of future flooding

22 December 2015

All of the above

Updates including impact of climate change

Every 6 years thereafter

Table 8 - Tools for Managing Flood Risk (adapted from UK groundwater Forum, 2009)


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