A reported 9 out of 17 record breaking rainfall months or seasons since 1910 have occurred after 2000 (Met Office, 2018). In recent years extreme rainfall and coastal flooding across the UK have caused untold human and financial cost. The most recent assessment by the Environment Agency claims that the cost of damages following floods in 2015/16 was roughly £1.6 billion. Currently, 520,000 properties in England, including 370,000 homes, are at risk of damage from coastal flooding whilst 2.7 million UK homes remain at risk of surface level flooding (CCC, 2018; Environment Agency, 2018).
Between 2015 and 2021 the Government committed to investing £2.6 billion in roughly 1,500 flood defence projects to create more flood resilient homes. Within the long-awaited 25 Year Environment Plan, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) announced that it would also be ‘expanding the use of natural flood management solutions’. Moreover, in January 2019 the Environment Agency will be conducting a public consultation on a new national flood and coastal erosion risk management (FCERM) strategy. The report will set out an updated, ‘overview of flood and coastal erosion risk in England’ and, ‘a long-term, strategic ambition for managing flood and coastal erosion risk in England’. Under the ‘Flood Re’ scheme funds raised via a levy on the home insurance industry, totalling around £180 million annually, are used to provide broader coverage for homes at significant risk of flooding.
As future climate projections predict increased and extreme weather variability, questions remain over the extent to which the nation is prepared for severe flooding. A report published by the UK Committee on Climate Change in October 2018 claims that by the 2080s, ‘up to 1.5 million properties, including 1.2 million homes, may be in areas at significant level of flood risk.’ In lieu of further investment, DEFRA predicts that, ‘the number of properties at medium or high risk could rise from 0.75 million to 1.29 million in 50 years’ (DEFRA, 2018). Moreover, recent research by the Met Office and Flood Forecasting Centre illustrates the importance of continued research into effective modelling of extreme weather occurrences in understanding flood risk and building national resilience.
As the Environment Agency prepares its new national strategy on flood defence, stakeholders from across central and local government, flood risk experts and advocacy groups will assess existing provisions to mitigate the effects of flooding and develop new strategies to manage future risk. As well as gaining a unique perspective on the macro policy challenges surrounding national flood resilience, delegates will also consider the challenges faced by local communities and the role of local authorities in building a cohesive national policy apparatus.