MPs endorse landscape work for flood mitigation

Landscape-based approaches to flood mitigation and alleviation such as tree planting, water storage on farmland and sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) should be used alongside hard engineering, according to a new report by MPs who examined the Government's response to last winter's floods.

The House of Commons Environment & Rural Affairs Committee last week called for a large-scale - in the region of 100-200sq km - catchment trial of natural flood-risk management approaches, including leaky dams, tree planting and improved soil measures, alongside using farmland to store water as is done in the Netherlands, with Defra and the NFU to work together with "appropriate incentives to recompense farmers".

The report acknowledges that the Government has increased funding for flood risk management but points out that the money "was unlikely to deliver sufficient protection in future decades". It says hard engineering solutions cannot solve the problem alone and recognises the part landscape can play, including the role of urban parks as temporary water storage areas and trees' ability to soak up water.

It criticises current flood-risk management as "fragmented, inefficient and ineffective" and recommends taking responsibility from the Environment Agency, after it came under criticism for its handling of last winter's flooding, and giving it to a new floods commissioner, regional flooding and coastal boards and a rivers and coastal authority.

Other recommendations include transferring land drainage responsibilities currently held by local authorities to water and sewage companies, to foster "a more holistic approach to flooding and water supply management", and calling on Defra to set out how SuDS will be deployed in new developments, by January next year.

Landscape Institute president Merrick Denton- Thompson agreed on the need for an holistic approach. "We need to look at larger catchment management issues, how forestry, land management and soft engineered flood-alleviation schemes can hold back water in the upper reaches of rivers. All are easier to implement and cost significantly less than 'grey' hard engineering solutions that have high impact and even higher costs."

Denton-Thompson and The Woodland Trust both said Brexit provides an opportunity to develop a multifunctional land policy.


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