Examination of witnesses (Questions 60
WEDNESDAY 22 NOVEMBER 2000
60. You think that that should be in the policy
planning guidance, when it is redrafted?
(Dr Mance) The redraft should make it clear that the
onus is on the developer to prove that it is safe and appropriate
to develop in those locations in terms of flood risk.
61. Earlier you referred to the pricing review
of the water industry. I have a dozen areas in my constituency
that flood regularly with a combination of sewage and run-off
water every time it rains heavily. Thames Water says that in the
last price review they were given only sufficient funds over the
next five years to protect 1,500 further homes that were at risk
of flooding. It appears that the number of homes that are flooding
is increasing rather than decreasing. It is your view that that
was a wholly inadequate part of the pricing review. As far as
the water companies were concerned in relation to the resources
that they were able to develop to protect people from sewage flooding,
that was wholly inadequate and should be changed at the earliest
opportunity so that they can put in more resources with the effect
that prices will go up?
(Dr Mance) I think we made it clear that we had our
doubts about whether adequate resources were being made available
to the water companies to deal with the maintenance of their infrastructure.
Slicing that down to individual items is a problem. We agree with
the Environmental Audit Select Committee in their recent report,
where they again said that there should be much more emphasis
put on infrastructure.
62. I am encouraging you to be robust.
(Dr Mance) We try to be.
63. Do you have a firm opinion that the local
development plan, from the draft stage to the deposited plan,
should clearly show flood plains on the map, based on your data?
(Mr Steward) We believe that it is important, yes,
that development plans and proposal maps show flood plains.
64. I meant the map because that is a little
more graphic. If it were hidden away in words people would argue
about it, but it should be on the map, as a designated thing.
It would be sourced from your agency and not from any other opinion.
(Mr Steward) Yes.
65. You talked about the Thames Estuary. Were
you talking about the whole of the estuary, the catchment area
which is massive, or were you talking about the reaches of the
Thames which are navigable?
(Dr Mance) I meant purely the tidal defences on the
estuary. The most visible part is the Thames Barrier, but there
are 150 kilometres plus of defences downstream of the Thames Barrier,
which contain the water otherwise the Thames Barrier itself would
generate flooding, seawards of the barrier. For the whole of that
system alone we estimate £4 billion over 40 years.
66. My constituency includes Canvey Island.
What is your opinion of having a lower Thames Barrier?
(Dr Mance) The barrier's design has a planned standard
of service which climate change and sea level rise means will
not be sustained beyond I think 2030, although it may be 2020.
That is why we have been looking to see what we need to do to
the system to maintain that standard of service through to 2100.
67. Could we have some notes on that, including
what research you have done on the possibilities of a lower Thames
(Dr Mance) We can provide you with a note on the assessment
that we have done of investment need and how the system should
be upgraded to maintain the standard of defence.
68. If you have had any thinking or meetings
on the possibility of a lower barrier can you give that to the
Committee? Finally, you will be aware that you do not have enough
powers. I find it astonishing that the Environment Agency sometimes
does not use the power that it has. I am going on now to the system
of dykes and drains that exist in various parts of the country
and which are dominant on Canvey Island. The Environment Agency
is willing not to take enforcement action where they have been
filled in in an authorised way, relating to developments that
have no planning permission and they have been allowed to be culverted
or filled in. Would you please take a more robust stance in such
matters because we expect that they are there for flood capacity
and quite plainly I can see dire effects?
(Dr Mance) Perhaps I can pick up the detail outside
69. It occurs to me that in additional to the
high and consistent level of rainfall, many factors that exacerbate
the situation take place in other areas other than where the flood
actually happens. Would you agree with that? Do you think that
there needs to be more emphasis on the regional aspects of planning
(Mr Steward) There is already quite a lot of emphasis
on regional planning guidance. Recently we have had published
PPG 11 which gives firm guidance. It promotes the consideration
of catchment-wide issues.
70. What is your relationship like with regional
(Mr Steward) Very good.
71. Who is responsible for flood defence measures
and the costs? Is it your agency?
(Dr Mance) I wish it were a simple answer. We are
responsible for the main arterial drainage, funded by a levy on
council tax from county councils, metropolitan councils or unitary
authorities, supported by MAFF grants. For smaller water courses
outside of internal drainage boards, the responsibility is that
of the local authorities at district council level and within
internal drainage boards it is the internal drainage boards responsibility
funded by a local rate.
72. In other words, it comes out of the public
(Dr Mance) Yes.
73. Where development takes place that is not
consistent with your advicein other words is contrary to
your advicedo you not think that there should be a facility
like a 106 agreement, where the developer pays for those flood
defences? Why should the money come out of the public purse, especially
when it takes place against your advice?
(Dr Mance) I entirely agree. The difficulty is that
we do not enter into the 106 agreements; it is the planning authority.
The onus is then on the planning authority to do so and enforce
74. I understand that, but you would have no
objection to that. If it were contrary to your advice there would
be an onus on the developers to ensure that they pay for the necessary
(Dr Mance) There are examples of it happening now
75. Could you give the Committee a list of the
sort of things that are already happening?
(Dr Mance) Yes.
76. On the consultation on PPG 25, the department
has given us a summary of the issues that are now outstanding.
Are you happy with the way in which the negotiations are going
with the department?
(Dr Mance) We have not had the benefit of the advice
that they have given you. That is slightly difficult. Jonathan
may wish to comment on the current state of the discussions.
(Mr Chapman) In section 2.1 of our memorandum we identify
the main issues from our original response to the PPG. In section
2.2 we talk about issues relating to the recent floods. The department
has taken on board a lot of the comments that we made.
77. What has it not taken on board?
(Mr Chapman) The main area that we would seek to be
clearer on is how the issue is to be sorted out. We all know what
the issue is; we want to have the solutions clearly identified
in a systematic way for all the players to go through and a level
playing field all around.
78. Do you worry that there is still vagueness
in the proposed changes to the draft?
(Dr Mance) We have had some very positive discussions.
We have not seen a recent redraft to know how far they are permeating
into the text.
79. What impact have the recent events had on
(Dr Mance) In parts of the country our staff are exhausted.
I would like to take the opportunity to thank both our staff and
those of local authorities, the emergency services and the Armed
Forces who have worked round the clock for several weeks. In Yorkshire
they are still on 24-hour rostering, three weeks in, and that
will carry on for a good few days yet. It is often forgotten that
they are, therefore, tired; they have not had a social life for
three weeks; and their whole family lives have been disrupted.
The general viewnot just our ownis that the response
has gone well and has been professionally handled. There are obviously
odd cases where perhaps we need to go back and see how we do things,
but it is a very different picture from, say, three years ago.
The staff are tired now and looking forward to someone turning
off the tap so that they can rest.