Government blasted by Landscape Institute for "paralysis" on flooding

The Landscape Institute has used the recent flooding to repeat calls for the government to "end the paralysis on flooding and water".

President Sue Illman issued a statement in which she said the floods once again exposed the UK’s lack of resilience when confronted by extreme wet weather.

Her comments follow extreme weather that flooded urban green spaces and national parks and which saw more than 230 flood alerts in place.

They also chime with the institute's support for Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) – integrating water management with the built environment through good design.

"The existing sewer infrastructure can’t cope and the government appears paralysed when it comes to fully implementing the Flood and Water Management Act," she said.

"We have the means to better protect ourselves against flooding with wetlands, reed beds, drainage channels and porous driveways, known as sustainable urban drainage systems (SUDS).

"We need to invest in order to save the massive costs to people and property demonstrated by the flooding across the UK. New development is just the tip of the iceberg.

"Unless we start a comprehensive programme of retro-fitting SUDS alongside larger scale catchment management programmes, the problems will continue to get worse."

Illman added: "It’s no surprise parts of Britain are being devastated by floods again. The UK’s water supply chain needs to become more sustainable to deal with drought and flood effectively.

"We need to look beyond the idea that a pipe in the ground is the best option for getting rid of rain water – this is an obsolete 19th-century solution to a growing 21st-century problem."

She went on to call for soft planted, green drainage schemes, which cost less but increased property values. They provided multiple benefits like increased biodiversity, better air and water quality.

"We can look to Sweden, Australia, the US and Japan to find great examples of SUDS protecting homes and businesses from the devastation of flooding.

"Even countries like Latvia and Russia are building and retrofitting SUDS whie we continue to lag behind."

Illman accused the Government of being "seemingly so short-sighted in its approach". Until it took the issue seriously and committed cash the floods would continue.

"And our homes, businesses and transport systems will be severely disrupted. The Natural Environment White Paper promotes the Green Economy; developing and implementing SUDs could make an important contribution to stimulating growth and we know it can be extremely cost effective."

Consultant Julian Dobson echoed Illman's despair at government inaction: He told HW: "The situation highlights this government's spineless and short-term approach to environmental quality.

"Anything that appears to stand in the way of a crude drive for growth or looks like more regulation is dumped even if the result would be better value for everyone, including the property industry.

"Any developer – for private or social housing, commercial or office development - should be held responsible for their impact on the local environment.

"Part of that impact is surface water run-off which can damage other homes and properties. The onus should be on the developer to minimise that risk.

"Creating green spaces with swales and ponds that act as wildlife habitats can improve the value of housing. A report by CABE Space in 2005 found that green spaces have a positive effect on property values."

On a visit to his badly flooded Oxford constituency last week, PM David Cameron insisted the government was doing all it could to help people affected by the floods. He said the Environmental Agency was properly resourced despite departmental cuts but "there is always more to do and lessons to be learnt and I'll make sure we do that."


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