The Environment Agency and the way we handle the risk of flooding need a major overhaul, according to a group of MPs.
Although the Government is spending more money on managing the risk of flooding, this is still “unlikely” to be enough to “deliver sufficient protection” in the future, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has said.
It has suggested that responsibility for handling the threat be taken from the Environment Agency and given to a new national floods commissioner for England and a new English Rivers and Coastal Authority.
The proposal is being welcomed by some victims of flooding.
The last two winters have seen tens of thousands of homes and businesses hit by flooding in areas such as Somerset, Yorkshire, Lancashire and the Thames Valley.
Areas in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have also been affected by severe storms and floods but are not covered by the Environment Agency.
Parish Councillor Ewan Larcombe has been flooded three times in Datchet and believes the Environment Agency has mismanaged the Jubilee River flood relief scheme, increasing the flood risk.
He welcomed the idea of a shake up to the agency, saying: “The EA hasn’t learned from its mistakes. Any change from how things are now would be an improvement,” he said.
The committee recommends storing water on farmland to reduce the risk of flooding and the Government should consult on introducing an incentive scheme for farmers by July next year, it said.
A grant scheme should be set up to help small businesses unable to secure affordable insurance to install resilience measures, they added.
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The committee said the Environment Agency and the Met Office should develop clearer explanations by the end of the year, including simplifying warnings about flood risk.
It said that describing a “one in x year” risk was confusing.
Committee chairman Neil Parish said: “Some five million people in England are at risk of flooding.
“Winter 2015-16 broke rainfall records.
“Storms Desmond, Eva and Frank disrupted communities across northern parts of the UK, with Desmond alone costing the UK more than £5bn.
“We propose a radical alternative to the Government’s national flood resilience review’s limited solutions to the current fragmented, inefficient and ineffective flood risk management arrangements.
“Our proposals will deliver a far more holistic approach to flooding and water supply management to include much wider use of natural measures such as leaky dams, tree planting and improved soil management.
“And some areas of farmland should be used to store flood water.”