The Urgent Need for Stronger Flood Defences in England

More than 4,000 flood defences in England are in such a state of disrepair that they are practically ineffective, with nearly 800 assets posing a high risk to life and property. This alarming analysis comes on the heels of Storm Babet, which battered several parts of the country, leaving devastation in its wake. The damage caused by the storm and the inadequacy of the flood defences have raised concerns among flood-hit communities and fueled calls for a thorough review of the existing protective measures.

While the government has been blamed for its ill-preparedness and complacency, the reality is that climate breakdown has made extreme weather events increasingly likely and frequent. These events have not only resulted in catastrophic flooding but have also triggered food shortages and price hikes. The urgent need to address climate change and strengthen flood defences is evident, as failure to do so will only lead to more frequent and intense storms, causing further damage and loss of life.

A recent analysis of Environment Agency data revealed that 4,204 flood defences in England are in poor or very poor condition. This accounts for approximately one in 15 of the total defences. Of these, 856 were deemed to be in a very poor state, rendering them completely ineffective. The remaining 3,348 defences were considered to be in poor condition, significantly reducing their performance.

In the 10 English counties most affected by Storm Babet, 646 flood defences were in a poor state, and 135 were classified as very poor. These numbers highlight the dire situation faced by these communities and the urgent need for action.

Bold action is required to address the climate crisis and protect vulnerable communities. Investment in upgrading and maintaining flood defences is crucial to ensure their effectiveness. Furthermore, reducing emissions and tackling climate change at its source is essential to prevent the recurrence of such catastrophic events.

The government must prioritize the protection of its citizens by providing adequate resources and funding to repair and strengthen flood defences. Failure to do so would be a dereliction of duty and could have significant political consequences.


Why are flood defences in England in such poor condition?

Flood defences in England have deteriorated due to a combination of factors, including lack of funding, inadequate maintenance, and the increasing frequency of extreme weather events caused by climate breakdown.

What are the risks of ineffective flood defences?

Ineffective flood defences pose a high risk to life and property. They leave communities vulnerable to devastating floods, leading to loss of life, damage to homes and infrastructure, and long-term economic and social impacts.

What can be done to improve flood defences?

To improve flood defences, there needs to be a significant investment in repairing and upgrading existing structures. Additionally, there must be a focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate the effects of climate change and prevent future floods. Collaboration between government, environmental agencies, and local communities is essential to develop comprehensive flood prevention strategies.

What is the government doing to address the issue?

The government has committed to investing £5.2 billion between 2021 and 2027 to enhance flood protection and has embarked on various initiatives to improve flood defences. However, there is a need for increased funding and a more comprehensive strategy to address the scale of the problem effectively.