Flooding boss urges debate on abandoning at-risk homes

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The man in attack of the UK’s flood defences has called for a debate on whether communities at the highest hazard should be abandoned and their residents permanently relocated.

Sir James Bevan, the Situation Agency chief executive, said England could not continue to establish taller, stronger and costlier concrete defences for ever.

In a speech in Telford, he quizzed if it would be safer for people to move.

The UK «owed it to future generations» to reckon the unthinkable, he suggested.

Addressing the Flood and Coast Conference, he also telephoned for homeowners to be more aware of the risks they faced and for businesses, congresses and other organisations to share more of the cost of funding flood vindications.

Central government accounts for about 90% of all English funding on rush risk management and defence.

  • Hundreds of key sites at risk of floods

Mutual understanding to a 2016 government review, 12% of England’s land mass, 8% of the natives and 2.4 million homes and other premises are vulnerable to coastal and river deluging.

In the wake of the devastating 2013-14 winter floods across southern England, the then prime evangelist David Cameron pledged to spend whatever it took to rebuild communities and certify they weren’t swamped again.

‘First principles’

Sir James said the UK had toughened its capacity to deal with flooding since then and the equally incisive floods in the north of England in the winter of 2015-6.

But, in the longer term, he ventured government would have to rethink its approach «from first principles», proposing what had worked so well in the past and continued to do so «may not be enough in the future».

While vigorous infrastructure such as the Thames Barrier would likely have to be upgraded in the years to be in print, he said there was a limit to the protection «hard» structures could forth and «more concrete was not the answer».

«In the face of the rising risks and costs, it won’t flourish sense to go on building ever taller, stronger and more expensive valid defences as the default solution to flood risk,» he said.

«The engineering won’t exploit and the humans won’t put up with it. You can only build a wall so high before people in wanting to live behind it.»

While he made clear he was not calling for high-risk communities to be deracinated, he said the argument that it would be safer and cheaper to do so than to with to defend them had to be confronted.

«There are places on the coast and on some of our outstanding rivers which are already costing millions of pounds a year to fortify and those costs will only rise over time,» he signified.

«Do we want to defend every inhabited location or should we consider unfixed some communities?

«I am not saying we should do that. I know how important recall and community are to people. I am saying we should be prepared to have the debate.»

In its 2016 spate resilience review, UK ministers acknowledged alternatives to «hard solutions» were needed, with more attention on natural flood management and water planning, both down river and upstream.

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