Increased rainfall is a reality – more flood prevention needed

Posted by Derek Mason

21st November 2023

Picture credit: Peggychoucair on Pixabay

The Environment Agency has been criticised for not doing enough to protect homes in England from flooding, but villagers in Lowdham, Nottinghamshire, will be relieved that work has begun on a £26-million flood storage reservoir.

The agency has a budget of £5.2 billion which they were expected to spend between 2021 and 2027, but they’ve underspent and will now need to spend almost £1 billion a year to achieve their targets. This is ever more urgent, as climate change means that flooding is getting worse.

Despite the budget available, according to the National Audit Office, the number of properties set to benefit from flood protection by 2027 has been cut by 40%, and 500 of 2000 new flood defence projects have been abandoned.

The EA has protected 59,000 properties in England since 2020, but the target of protecting 336,000 homes by 2027 has been slashed to 200,000. The Environment Agency has blamed these cuts on inflation.

It’s estimated that for every £1 spent to improve protection, £5 of property damage is avoided, so let’s hope that The Environment Agency prioritises this work. The risk now will be that in a bid to spend more quickly in a climate of inflation, projects are less well thought out and not necessarily the best investment of funds. Let’s hope that’s not the case.

The Lowdham project is an important one, as the village has a long history of frequent floods causing significant damage to properties and possessions. Of course, it’s not just the physical impact – the psychological impact can be devastating. People lose irreplaceable possessions, can be forced to battle their insurers, and may end up homeless or staying in inappropriate or inconvenient accommodation. Floods have occurred most recently in 1999, 2007, 2012, 2013, 2019 and 2020, so it’s clear that urgent intervention is needed.

Lowdham’s flood storage area will be built upstream of the village and involves cutting into an embankment of the Cocker Beck, a tributary of the River Trent. Compacted soil and ultra-low carbon concrete will be used to create a raised reservoir. This will hold up to 100,000 cubic metres of water during times when the Cocker Beck floods, preventing the village from being inundated.

The scheme also includes tree-planting on site, plus the creation of 3 hectares of woodland nearby. Aggressive non-native plant species including Himalayan Balsam and Knotweed will be removed, in partnership with Nottinghamshire County Council.

The flood prevention work will protect 191 properties and is expected to be in place by spring 2026. Given the rate of recent flooding, let’s hope that residents get a break from the deluge before the scheme is finished.

Over the past 60 years our climate has been shifting and we’ve seen rainfall steadily increase in the UK. Analysis by the Met Office shows that when you compare two time periods – 1961-1990, and 1991-2020 – average rainfall has increased by 7.3%. And, of course, it is the intense rainfall events and storms that cause the most damage.

Given this knowledge about our climate, and the likely future changes, it makes sense to work on preventative projects, rather than repeatedly bailing out flooded communities.

At Super Structures Associates, we have experience of building in areas prone to flooding and can take on the structural elements needed for homes on stilts and other innovative projects – as well as more traditional work.

If you need assistance with the structural elements of an upcoming project, please do get in touch.

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