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Surface water: The biggest flood risk of all

20 February 2019

Last October, Sir James Bevan KCMG, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, gave a speech talking about the challenges facing us all from surface water flooding.

The growing knowledge of the risks of surface water flooding, increase the importance for property managers to take all practicable steps to prevent or minimise any damage. His speech gave a stark reminder of the risks to property.

He said, “Over 3 million properties in England are at risk of surface water flooding, even more than those at risk from rivers and the sea (2.7 million). Surface water flooding is a risk because of its effect.

"It hits not just individual homes and businesses, but the whole infrastructure – road, rail, utilities etc – of a town or city, disrupting pretty much all aspects of modern life.”

Fortunately, there are solutions out there. A number of the engineers and key stakeholders tasked to manage and reduce flood risk will be at FLOODEX on the 27-28th Feb in Peterborough to meet with peers and organisations helping to implement solutions across the country.

Sir James went on to explain, “Part of this is about Sustainable Drainage Systems, which can make communities more resilient to surface water flooding and deliver a host of other benefits – public spaces with more green and blue; more beautiful surroundings in which people can live, work and play; enhanced habitat for wildlife, greater biodiversity, improved water quality, and so on.

"The EA is working with developers, local authorities and the water companies to support the integration of SuDS into as many locations as possible, and I have seen some great examples.”

The FLOODEX event in Peterborough will also see the launch of the Association of SuDS Authorities. A really exciting development to ensure consistency of approach across different areas of the country.

On January 7th 2019 Schedule 3 of the Flood & Water Management Act (FWMA) came in to force making sustainable drainage applications mandatory for all new developments across Wales.

The applications are to be managed by a SAB (SuDS Approving Body) within the LPA’s. 60% of Welsh Authorities are using AMX (exhibitors at FLOODEX) for their Flood, Drainage and Highways Asset Management.

This kind of legislation is likely to be rolled out before too long across the rest of the UK.

However, there isn't any silver bullet to resolve the issue of surface water flooding. Effective solutions require a holistic approach as Sir James outlined here, “Designing in resilience is about a lot more than SuDS.

"It means starting far upstream in the planning process so that new developments are themselves laid out in ways which reduce surface water and other risks.

"Milton Keynes is a good example – a city that was planned to be decentralised, without high concentrations of concrete in one centre with the attendant risks, with green and blue spaces designed in where they already existed and new ones created where not. All over the country now we are working with developers and local authorities to seek to emulate that.”

Businesses looking to manage and reduce their risk to surface water flooding, would benefit from visiting FLOODEX (27th & 28th Feb - Peterborough) to learn and see how they can take steps to protect their assets. Register for free via

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