An analysis has found that over 4,000 flood defences in England are deemed ineffective.
Over 4,000 flood defenses in England have been severely damaged and are now ineffective, with hundreds located in regions hit hard by Storm Babet.
Approximately 800 essential elements, which are identified as having a significant threat to the safety of individuals and property, were found to be in a state of disrepair in the 10 most severely impacted counties in England following the unprecedented heavy rainfall last week.
The examination will contribute to increasing frustration among flood-affected communities who have blamed the authorities for being unprepared and negligent leading up to Storm Babet.
The United Kingdom is preparing for additional rainfall and potential flooding this week in anticipation of the arrival of Storm Ciarán on Thursday. The storm is expected to bring strong winds and heavy precipitation.
Over the weekend, certain areas of Britain experienced additional heavy rain, making it difficult for the recovery efforts after the destructive floods. The floods resulted in at least seven deaths, displacement of hundreds of people, and damage to numerous properties.
Members of Parliament and citizens in both England and Scotland are calling for a reassessment of the safety measures in effect following the devastating impact of Storm Babet. Despite existing defenses, the storm exceeded expectations and caught meteorologists by surprise.
According to Steve Reed, the Labour Party’s spokesperson for the environment, the Conservative Party’s temporary solution to flooding has resulted in severe damage to communities and billions of pounds lost in the economy.
Extreme weather events are becoming more likely and frequent due to climate breakdown, and have caused food shortages and price increases.
A study of information from the Environment Agency, obtained by Greenpeace UK’s investigative division Unearthed, revealed that in 2022, 4,204 of England’s crucial flood barriers were in inadequate or extremely inadequate state. This amounts to approximately one out of every 15 defenses.
In various regions, 856 were evaluated as extremely inadequate, indicating they had “serious flaws leading to total malfunction”, essentially making them ineffective.
Out of the total of 3,348, the remaining ones were deemed to be in poor condition due to defects that would greatly impact their performance.
In the ten counties in England that were most impacted by Storm Babet, ranging from Suffolk to Northumberland, a total of 646 were in a state of low quality and 135 were deemed to be in a very low quality condition.
The Environment Agency reported that they own and upkeep over half of the flood defences in England. They stated that inspections conducted during the last fiscal year showed a positive change, with the number of damaged defences decreasing from 1 in 15 to 1 in 20.
The organization stated that backup plans will be implemented if necessary in the event of discovering critical defenses in a deteriorated state.
According to Paul Morozzo, senior climate campaigner for Greenpeace UK, the deteriorating state of our flood defenses is a clear indication of the government’s inability to address the urgent issue of climate change.
The occurrence of Storm Babet served as a wake-up call that the climate crisis is imminent and the toll it takes, in terms of both human lives and destruction, is immense.
Taking urgent and decisive measures to reduce emissions is crucial in mitigating the increasing frequency and severity of extreme storms and floods. Furthermore, without proper financial support and improvements, our flood protection systems will continue to falter.
The government’s decision to backtrack on its promises regarding climate change and neglecting to provide necessary infrastructure for mitigation shows a lack of concern for the communities it is responsible for protecting. This failure to fulfill its duty is disgraceful and could result in losing votes in the upcoming election, unless Sunak takes action and changes course.
Last year, the Environment Agency, a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, had a goal to fix numerous flood defences, with only 30 remaining in poor or very poor condition. However, in reality, there were still 1,766 defences in that category.
Last week, Thérèse Coffey, the secretary for the environment, proposed that the Met Office and the Environment Agency were taken by surprise by Storm Babet due to the eastern direction of the rain.
She mentioned that it seemed like her division might not achieve its goal of safeguarding 336,000 properties by 2027.
The Met Office reported that the time span of October 18 to 20 ranked as the third highest for rainfall in a three-day period in England and Wales since 1891. The Midlands also experienced its highest recorded rainfall over a three-day period.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) announced that it will allocate £5.2 billion from 2021 to 2027 for the purpose of safeguarding properties from flood damage. Additionally, over 96,000 buildings were successfully protected from the effects of Storm Babet.
A representative from the Environment Agency stated that they oversee around 76,000 flood-related structures throughout England. They anticipate that 95% of these structures will operate as intended in the event of a flood, which is an improvement from last year.
“We give top priority to maintenance in areas where there is a serious risk to people’s safety and well-being. This was made possible by a £200 million investment from April 2022 to March 2023 to ensure our assets were prepared for winter.”