In a bid to address the growing threat of flooding, Adrian Ramsay, co-leader of the Green Party has called for action on flooding. He wants new planning rules to prohibit construction on floodplains, and for more grants for flood protection in vulnerable areas. As the Green Party’s parliamentary candidate for the new Waveney Valley constituency, the issue is very personal. The Waveney is particularly prone to flooding; after three major floods this century, the floods have returned this month.
Flood protection budgets cut
Ramsay’s call is prompted by a recent report from the National Audit Office which reveals a significant reduction in the Environment Agency’s (EA) ability to safeguard properties from floods. The EA has downsized its plans for properties to be better protected by 2027, from 336,000 to 200,000: a 40% decrease. Out of the originally planned 2,000 new flood defence projects, 500 have been removed, leaving a potential shortfall in protection.
In addition, a budget deficit of £34 million for maintenance raises concerns about the erosion of existing flood defences, putting an extra 200,000 properties at risk.
Will the new Secretary of State care?
There may be some hope for Ramsay’s appeal. This week, Steve Barclay has taken over as Secretary of State for the Environment. As MP for North East Cambridgeshire, he is very aware of the issues. His own constituency is one of the most exposed to flooding in the country. In 2020, a major flood caused extensive damage to homes and businesses, and forced some people to evacuate. Half of it is less than 5 metres above sea level, which puts it at severe flood risk as sea levels rise.
Ramsay emphasises the importance of prevention, stating,
“Prevention is better than cure, as the thousands of people recently flooded out, including many in Suffolk, will testify.”
He says that current funding is inadequate, but also that more innovative approaches are required to combat the increasing frequency of extreme weather events.
He highlights a significant gap in the EA’s targets, with over a hundred thousand people in the most vulnerable areas being told that they are not a priority. He argues that cutting back on maintenance is a false economy, leaving people dependent on existing flood defences that may be compromised.
Calling for proactive measures, Ramsay proposes allowing people in vulnerable areas to apply for small grants before a flood occurs, instead of limiting assistance to post-event scenarios. A small measure which stops 6 inches of water entering a house can save thousands of pounds in restoration when the water recedes. He also advocates a shift towards more cost-effective natural flood defences, slowing the flow of rivers by natural dams and meanders.
Addressing the regulatory framework, Ramsay expresses disbelief that planning regulations still permit new buildings on floodplains, and called for a reassessment of these guidelines. Not only are such houses themselves liable to flood, but because water runs faster off buildings and roads, they increase the flood risk itself.
Call for leadership on climate change
Ramsay believes we need to address the root cause of the flooding issue by tackling emissions responsible for climate change. He urges the government to show leadership at the upcoming COP28 climate talks, emphasising a commitment to ending fossil fuel use, promoting renewable energy, insulating homes, and investing in public transport and infrastructure for active travel.
“The cost of the government’s inaction on flood defences and climate change will inevitably be borne by ordinary people.”
Perhaps with a new environment minister overseeing the EA who has residents at risk in his own constituency, the call will actually be met with action.
Based on a press release from the Green Party.