Budget 2020: new flood defence funding is a drop in the ocean

Ian Paton, flooding specialist at Cluttons and contributor to the new Code of Practice for Property Flood Resilience

It is welcome news that today’s budget includes an additional £2.6 billion funding for flood defence. However, it would be even better to hear that this extra money is being spent wisely for the future – sadly, not something we can say about successive governments over the last five or six decades.

The additional funding means that more and more strategic walls and barriers will be built, many reducing flood risk for target areas, but sometimes redistributing flood waters to other areas and causing new problems in different zones.

Rather than a piecemeal approach, far reaching comprehensive schemes are required for a truly sustainable future, reducing flood risk. We need to think about much longer-term solutions which offer other benefits like:

  • Reversing surfacing impermeability
  • Stricter planning control on building in Flood Zones 2 and 3, aside from appropriate commercial developments which can be designed above flood levels
  • Creating more wetlands and bringing back wetlands that have been lost to farming
  • Planting many, many more trees, particularly reforestation upstream
  • Rewilding and remeandering for rivers where they have been straightened in the past
  • Providing more urban storage and catchment sites
  • Persuading insurers to insist that claim payouts are spent on resilience, not just reinstatement
  • ….and, possibly the biggest national challenge of all in some places, to change intensive agricultural systems to reverse soil compaction and reduce rural run-off

But alongside all this is the global challenge to fight the causes of climate change and bring us back to the 1.5°C limit because, if we don’t do that, the flood defences we put in now will have little meaning alongside the other problems we humans have created.

In the meantime, our advice to clients – private businesses in the industrial and commercial sectors – is to assess their property assets for flood resilience, using the new Code of Practice for Property Flood Resilience launched in February.

PFR measures should prevent water entering buildings – known as resistance measures – or limit the damage caused if water does enter the building – known as recoverability measures. Where it doesn’t make financial sense to protect the asset against flood water entry, it may be best to let it flood and focus on recoverability.


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Ian Paton

Partner, building surveying


T +44 (0) 1865 812 755
Ian Paton
Download Code of Practice