Today The Guardian has reported on the condition of flood defences across England, stating that thousands of people and businesses are ‘at risk from ruined assets’. However, the article did not recognise that when defences are listed as below the required condition it does not necessarily mean that they have structurally failed, or that performance in a flood is compromised.
In addition, the article does not recognise that in Storm Christoph alone, the Environment Agency’s permanent flood defences performed effectively and protected 38,000 properties from the misery of flooding. During Storm Christoph, no properties were flooded due to the failure of permanent flood defences managed by the Environment Agency.
The Environment Agency carried out a robust programme of 20,000 inspections following last Winter’s flooding. However where the performance of an asset is reduced, the EA puts in place contingency plans to ensure they are ready for winter and to ensure they are effective until the asset can be repaired or replaced.
The Environment Agency routinely inspects both EA and third party defences. Where there is an immediate danger of flooding, emergency repairs will be undertaken straight away, or contingency plans put in place if this is not possible. We advise third party asset owners where we have concerns about their assets condition, offer them advice and encourage them to make repairs.
The Environment Agency’s annual maintenance programme includes a range of activities that are prioritised and timetabled using information from inspections, maintenance standards, levels of flood risk and from legal and statutory obligations. The maintenance programme is published on GOV.UK
An Environment Agency spokesperson said:
We maintain approximately 78,000 flood assets across England, 95% of which are in good condition and repairs prioritised where there is significant threat to lives and livelihoods.
Our 2020 recovery programme inspected over 20,000 assets and, supported by a £120m government investment, all of our assets are winter ready either through repairs or, where these have not been completed, robust contingency plans are in place to manage risk until repairs are completed.