Connect with us

Environment

A third of England’s vital flood defences are in private hands

flood defences

A third of England’s vital flood defences are in private hands

A third of England’s most important flood defences are in private hands, an investigation has found, with more than 1,000 found to be in a poor state and some at risk of “complete performance failure”.

Private owners cannot be forced to make upgrades to the defences, which can involve bills of hundreds of thousands of pounds. The government admits it can only “encourage” third-party owners to do maintenance, though the Environment Agency can carry out emergency repairs if there is a risk to people, property or environment, and try to bill the freeholders afterwards.

Data obtained under freedom of information laws by Unearthed, the investigative arm of Greenpeace UK, and shared with the Guardian, show that privately owned assets classed as “high consequence” are twice as likely to be in a poor condition as those maintained by the Environment Agency, with 8% or 1,109 of private defences rated as sub-par.

The defences range from flood walls or embankments to weirs and piers, though many are outfall pipes or culverts – enclosed watercourses that run underneath roads, railways or other property.

Some are owned by major landowners such as the crown estate or Network Rail. Others run under private houses and businesses, often unnoticed until something goes wrong. In 2014 a father and son in Waterlooville, Hampshire, were faced with a £150,000 bill to repair a culvert that went underneath their properties.

High-consequence flood defences are the most important because they “contribute to managing flood risk in a location where the consequence on people and property of an asset failing is high”, according to the Environment Agency.

Defences are inspected and then rated from condition 1 to 5, with 1 meaning “very good”. Four is “poor”, with “defects that would significantly reduce the performance of the asset”, and 5 is “very poor” – “severe defects resulting in complete performance failure”.

There is no public record of who owns or maintains private flood defences in England, and local authorities are often unaware. To build a partial picture of private ownership, Unearthed took Environment Agency data and overlaid it with data from the Land Registry and other sources.

Kirklees council in West Yorkshire, which dealt with bad flooding during Storm Ciara in 2020, said it did not know who owned the 23 privately owned defences in its area that were rated as poor or very poor. The local authority in Carlisle, which has seen repeated flooding in recent years, said the same about the 30 poorly rated private defences in the city.

Even when local authorities do know the owners, they cannot compel them to carry out repairs. “All we can do is ask nicely,” said James Mead, a flood and water manager at Sheffield city council, who said he contacted private owners by looking on Google Maps and cross-referencing with Environment Agency data.

Some 29 defences rated poor or very poor across England are on land owned by the crown estate, the Queen’s property manager. A spokesperson said the estate did not own the defences nor did it have responsibility for their upkeep, but did not respond when asked who was responsible.

“Where flood defences have been installed by third parties on crown estate land we will always work with the relevant authorities to offer any assistance we can to ensure they are able to access and maintain as required,” the spokesperson said.

Last year the National Audit Office said the Environment Agency’s plan to beef up England’s flood defences was being undermined by a lack of coordination between the various bodies tasked with maintaining them.

With increased flooding one of the greatest risks facing the UK as a result of the climate crisis, this year the government announced £5.2bn to build 2,000 new flood and coastal risk management schemes. Private defence owners will not be eligible to receive any of this money.

The Environment Agency estimates that 5.2m homes and businesses in England are at risk of flooding and that about 700 properties are vulnerable to coastal erosion over the next 20 years.

An Environment Agency spokesperson said: “We routinely inspect both Environment Agency and third-party flood assets. Repairs are prioritised where there is threat to lives and livelihoods. We work closely with third party asset owners to encourage them to undertake repairs.

“Since 2015, more than 300,000 homes have been better protected from flooding on time and on budget. We’ve also made extensive preparations for the winter months, with thousands of frontline staff ready to respond to a flooding incident should it occur.”

Olivia Blake, the shadow flooding minister, said the government must do more to make sure private defences are up to scratch. “As our winters get wetter, the climate emergency will put flood defences under greater strain,” she said. “The government must act to ensure there are clear responsibilities and adequate measures in place so that any flood defences which are privately owned and critically important to the protection of the public are properly inspected and maintained.”

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

five × 2 =

Environment

134 Dead, 76,887 Houses Destroyed As Flooding Hits Jigawa

Heavy flooding in Jigawa State has resulted in the death of 134 persons and destroyed 76,887 houses.

The deputy governor of the state, Alhaji Umar Namadi disclosed this when he hosted the United Nations Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) official, Rahman Rihub Mahmud Fara on Saturday.

He said the state lost property worth more than N1.5 trillion to the floods.

A total of 22 roads and 11 bridges were completely washed away by the floods, he said.

The deputy governor said an entire village was also completely destroyed.

He said the flood affected 272,189 people, out of which 76,887 lost their houses.Mr Namadi said Kirikasamma and Birniwa local government areas are greatly affected.

UNICEF chief field officer in Kano, Katsina and Jigawa, Mr Fara, said they came to assess the situation and see what could be done to alleviate the suffering of the communities affected by flood in the state.

Continue Reading

Environment

NEMA Confirms Four Dead In Mushin Building Collapse

The three-storey building which collapsed on Friday in Lagos killed four persons.

This is according to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).

The agency said one other person was rescued in the building that collapsed on Oye Sonuga Street, Palm Avenue, in Mushin, Lagos.

NEMA South-West Zonal Coordinator, Mr Ibrahim Farinloye, revealed that those who died were two males and two females.

Earlier, the Lagos State Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Mr Omotayo Bamgbose-Martins the cause of the collapse would beinvestigated.

It is learnt that the three-storey building built 40 years would be pulled down immediately for safety reasons and to forestall further collapse, said Bamgbose-Matins.

He has therefore, ordered the Lagos State Building Control Agency and the Lagos State Materials Testing Laboratory to unravel the cause of the collapse.

 

Continue Reading

Environment

Flooding Displaces 2000 In Nasarawa Communities

Prev1 of 2
Use your ← → (arrow) keys to browse

Heaving flooding in some communities in Nasarawa state has caused the displacement of about 2000 people.

The Chairman, Doma Local Government in Nasarawa State, Ahmed Sarki-Usman who spoke on Friday during an assessment visit to the affected communities said the incident happened on September 20.

He said his visit was to ascertain the level of damage caused by the flood to report the situation to the state government for necessary action.

“It is unfortunate that the flood destroyed houses, farmlands, produce and other valuables worth millions of naira. Many inhabitants of the area affected by the flood have deserted their homes and are now camping at primary schools as temporary sites. What my people are facing is completely devastating,’’ he lamented.

Sarki-Usman urged people in the communities to remain calm as the government would soon assist them.

Prev1 of 2
Use your ← → (arrow) keys to browse

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Trending