Flood Investigation Reports – Section 19 of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010
When flooding affects communities, there are demands to know why it happened, whose fault it was, who’s responsible and what is going to be done to stop it happening again!
As a result of widespread flooding in 2007, the government commissioned an independent public review (The Pitt Review 2008) to provide a comprehensive assessment of all aspects of flood risk management in England. The Review made 92 recommendations which covered better prediction and warnings for flooding, flood prevention, emergency management, flood resilience and recovery.
Recommendations from The Review were accepted by the Government and led to the implementation of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 (FWMA).
Prior to the FWMA, flood management was disjointed and inconsistent, as there was no requirement for the different stakeholder organisations to co-operate with each other, and results of flood investigations rarely made public viewing.
Piecing together why an area has flooded can be difficult, since there may be several mechanisms involved and multiple sources responsible. The FWMA established a new framework of roles and responsibilities for Risk Management Authorities (RMAs) to allow an effective, joined up response to flooding at a local level.
The RMAs are –
- Environment Agency – responsible for flood and coastal erosion risk management activities on main rivers and the coast, regulating reservoir safety, and working in partnership with the Met Office to provide flood forecasts and warnings.
- County Councils and Unitary Authorities (see below)
- Highways Authorities – have the lead responsibility for providing and managing highway drainage and roadside ditches under the Highways Act 1980
- District and Borough Councils – flood risk management responsibilities for minor watercourses
- Coastal Protection Authorities – District and unitary authorities in coastal areas are Coastal Protection Authorities and lead on coastal erosion risk management activities in their area.
- Water and Sewerage Companies – manage the risk of flooding to water supply and sewerage facilities and flood risks from the failure of their infrastructure
County Councils and Unitary Authorities became Lead Local Flood Authorities (LLFAs). While LLFAs are not first responders at the time of a flood event, in addition to their role in investigating floods events, their duties also include leading on the management of local flood risk from surface water, groundwater and ordinary watercourses. To enable LLFAs to carry out this duty the FWMA requires RMAs to-
- Perform their duties in accordance with the National Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management (FCERM) Strategy and Local flood risk management strategies set out by LLFAs.
- Share information with other RMAs.
Section 19 of the FWMA placed a duty on LLFAs to undertake a flood investigation after a ‘significant’ flood event, to the extent that it considers necessary or appropriate. Flood events are to be classed as ‘significant’ when certain criteria are met, such as internal flooding to five or more properties and/or if damage and disruption is caused to critical infrastructure and buildings; such as major roads and hospitals. The purpose of the report is to investigate the:
- Events leading up to the flooding
- Numbers of properties flooded
- which RMAs have flood risk management functions in respect of the flooding (as listed above)
- whether each of those authorities has exercised or is proposing to exercise those functions in response to the flood
As part of producing the section 19 report, LLFAs will seek to collaborate with the local community and those affected, taking onboard eye witness accounts of the event and drawing on detailed local knowledge and proposed solutions in making its recommendations. The LLFA must then publish the results of the investigation and notify RMAs of their findings. As the relevant RMAs have co-operated and provided input to produce the Flood Investigation Report, it should be an accurate record of what happened.
When flooding has occurred, communities feel anxious and want answers straight away. Flood Investigation Reports are usually large complex documents which require lots of coordination and take time to prepare.
The report should provide a clearer understanding of the issues surrounding the flooding, identifying any ‘quick wins’ and making recommendations as to ‘possible’ solutions. Before a flood risk issue can be addressed, the problem must first be fully understood. That is why it is important for communities to see the section 19 report as a first step, rather than a final solution; such as a flood risk management scheme the Environment Agency may then go onto to develop to reduce the risk of river or coastal flooding. Piecing together what happened also helps RMAs when planning and preparing for future flood events.
Sources: Legislation.gov.uk, National Archives, Cabinet Office, DEFRA