Debate encouraged on flood risk communities

Speaking at the Flood and Coast Conference, Sir James Bevan has encouraged a conversation on whether communities at the highest risk of flooding should be abandoned and their residents permanently relocated.

The Environment Agency chief executive asked whether it would be safer for people to move home, saying the UK ‘owed it to future generations’ to think the unthinkable. According to Defra, 12 per cent of England's land mass, eight per cent of the population and 2.4 million homes and other premises are vulnerable to coastal and river flooding.

Stating that England could not continue to build taller, stronger and costlier concrete defences for ever, Bevan also called for homeowners to develop better awareness of the risks they faced and for councils and businesses to share more of the cost of funding flood defences. Currently, central government accounts for about 90 per cent of all English funding on flood risk management and defence.

He said: “In the face of the rising risks and costs, it won't make sense to go on building ever taller, stronger and more expensive concrete defences as the default solution to flood risk. The engineering won't work and the humans won't put up with it. You can only build a wall so high before people stop wanting to live behind it.

“There are places on the coast and on some of our major rivers which are already costing millions of pounds a year to defend and those costs will only rise over time. Do we want to defend every inhabited location or should we consider moving some communities? I am not saying we should do that. I know how important place and community are to people. I am saying we should be prepared to have the debate."

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