Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Green Party urges Defra to think radically about its flood strategy

Michael Coffey, Green Party Spokesman on water affairs, has written to Defra to advise them on ways to make the Flood and Water Management Bill an effective and timely piece of legislation, rather than the weak and lacklustre one it is shaping up to be.

Coffey notes that "surface water management strategies have to be considered as part of a coherent strategy for the overall water cycle." There needs to be six key actions taken to address the risk of flooding:

1) Defra is failing to legislate for the importance of trees to an urban water management system. Our urban tree count is falling, with 40 000 trees cut down in London in the last 5 years

2) Local authorities should be retrofitting exisiting neighbourhoods and streets with permeable pavements (as is being done in other countries) not just installing such paving in new-build developments

3) We need to maximise Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS); these should be made a condition of planning permission - either in situ or "offsetting" by installing them elsewhere in the area

4) Householders should be incentivised to inntroduce water conservation devices - through rebates on their water bills or council tax.

5) Local authorities should be set targets for the retention of permeable surfaces and water reuse in their areas and create area inventories of permeable surfaces

6) Water and sewage companies should be properly engaged in the consultative process for planning approvals. Water, and waste water, services have to be treated as a constraint on urban development, not as an infinite resource.

Michael Coffey concluded by saying: "Two thirds of the homes affected in the 2007 floods were flooded from surface water runoff overloading drainage systems. We need to build things into urban planning practice -- more trees, permeable paving, and sustainable drainage -- so this doesn't happen again."

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