Written evidence submitted by Dr Sally Brown, Bournemouth University (FLO0022)


  1. We are academics and researchers who have expertise in coastal flooding and erosion and its management plus climate change, from oceanography, geography, engineering and social science perspectives. We have published extensively in these areas, with journal paper writing ongoing, including funds from the Natural Environment Research Council funds (e.g. NE/S016651/1 analysing climate resilience and climate change on UK coasts; NE/R00689X/1 Innovation placement) and have ongoing work with doctoral students. Evidence presented below includes data gathered from semi-structured interviews (May-October 2018)[1] and workshops with coastal management practitioners in England (May-July 2019).[2] We are happy to provide copies on work in preparation when complete. We regularly liaise with practitioners, the Environment Agency and national and local governments in the UK, and internationally.


  1. We have focussed our answers on areas of our specific and extensive experience. We are happy to provide further information/insights in these areas if required in oral evidence to the Committee.


Main recommendations


  1. New funding streams need to be developed for coastal flood risk management (which may have implications for inland flooding) that incorporate more than just defence and habitat creation. This includes funds for:

a)      Continuous public education and engagement on flooding (more than just when a new scheme or policy change occurs);

b)      A wider range of consultations or through alternative methods for hard-to-reach groups, to ensure there is greater community awareness;

c)      Investment in key community buildings and functions to allow them to bounce back quicker after flooding;

d)      Realigning the shoreline even when that does not lead to habitat creation (funding for habitat creation must remain);

e)      Household resilience measures.


  1. Greater investment in flood risk guidance with spatial planning to avoid homes being built in unadvisable places or inappropriate building material / elevation, led at national levels so there is common guidance locally.


  1. Invest in working with nature, documentation of present defences and natural and socio-economic data to help make decisions in the short, medium and long-term.


  1. Investment in new science and their implications on society, including emerging risks or multiple sources of flooding.



Q1. Are the current national and local governance and co-ordination arrangements for flood and coastal risk management in England effective?


  1. Governance and co-ordination arrangement are effective to an extent for the status quo. These could be made more effective for localities where practices are presently, or in the future, projected to change. Based on our interviews and workshops, the following points are suggested:


  1. Funding for measures other than defence, going beyond homes: Flood and Coastal Resilience Partnership Funding outcome measures 1-3 remain focused on risk reduction, yet central government funding focuses on defence and habitat creation. New funding streams to benefit wider adaptation measures would be beneficial to make transitions where shoreline management policies change or where flooding occurs. This could include long-term active community engagement and education, resilience measures for functions that have a high community, such as pubs or community centres.[3],[4]


  1. Greater awareness and consultation of flood and coastal risk management: Requesting for stakeholder engagement often occurs when a new scheme is proposed or immediately after flooding. Casting wider, and making the consultation a continuous processes for the implications of flooding and changes to shoreline management policies, would be beneficial. This would stimulate a greater understanding of the risk and stakeholder needs and complacency can be avoided.[5]


  1. Timing of different policies: Shoreline Management Plans (SMPs) are enacted on much longer time scales (over approximately 90 years) than local plans, and may not be referred to in national/local strategies (e.g. SMPs are no longer referenced in the current National Planning Policy Framework). The direction of policy decisions remains generally ill defined (e.g. should town plans inform coastal decisions?). Interviews with planners and engineers suggested conflicts in understanding and therefore co-ordinating coastal risk management and coastal planning policies.[6]


  1. Emerging hazards: Pluvial (i.e. rainfall) and groundwater flooding are growing hazards that are less well understood, and managed, with respect to exposed populations. Lessons need to be learned from fluvial and coastal flood management, such as in the use and protection of critical infrastructure networks, particularly where flood onset is sudden.[7]


  1. Multi-hazard and ‘compound’ events: There is limited scientific understanding how these operate (e.g. fluvial and coastal flooding occurring near-simultaneously). Failure to plan for these events could lead to unexpected consequences and strains on the infrastructure network or emergency response, which could be significant.[8] Greater understanding and management of these hazards is advised.


Q2. What lessons can be learned from the recent floods about the way Government and local authorities respond to flooding events?


  1. We work in coastal flooding, but similar issues apply to inland flooding. At times, building properties and infrastructure on or near the evolving flood plain is the only way to reach government targets. We are increasingly asking questions as to why houses are built in the flood plain, but not adequately protected or built to be more flood-resilient. This is especially so for new properties built in the last decade, or for properties which cannot obtain or afford insurance. It is also unclear whether lessons learned are penetrating through to new development schemes. With improved understanding of the drivers of flooding, management and response needs to be reviewed. It should be more common place that flood risk reduction plans and strategies be able to easily accommodate new information.[9]


  1. Recent flood events have also highlighted the issue of public trust in effective flood management and governance.[10] Key lessons include improved communication of risk and providing evidence-led solutions.


Q3. Given the challenge posed by climate change, what should be the Government’s aims and priorities in national flood risk policy, and what level of investment will be required in future in order to achieve this?


  1. Our semi-structured interviews and workshops indicated greater diverse investment opportunities are needed to maximise our response to the challenges of climate change. Investment is needed in the following points:


  1. Greater joined-up response by relevant authorities: In responding to previous Parliamentary, DEFRA and Environment Agency inquiries, evidence and strategy in 2019, we found a range of approaches: Is the goal to decrease risk or increase resilience, or both? Investment needs to be in both of these areas, with greater connectivity between institutions responsible for managing flooding (spatial planning, insurance, engineering, emergency response), particularly where current policies end.[11]


  1. Planning and non-defence measures: Houses need to be built in less flood prone locations or raised, as the maintenance of coastal defences cannot be guaranteed over multi-decadal timescales even if the Shoreline Management Plan says to defend (e.g. due to financial constraint).[12] Where defences are built, these should be designed to protect beyond the lifetime of the infrastructure in question, as protection can attract further investment for certain development types. Consistently applied penalties (and strengthened support for those that enforce the regulations) would only benefit existing controls and support flood risk management planning policies.


  1. Education and engagement within government departments and local level administration (which can at times be in conflict, or a lack of understanding of policies outside one’s normal domain) so that risk is not stored up over long-time scales (e.g. with planners, advising about building in high risk locations). Guidance needs to be nationally led as practice at local levels varies between local authorities.[13] 


  1. Communicating, engaging and education of the public to better understand flood risk and how to reduce that risk: New funding streams to allow for continuous investment, going beyond when a new scheme in proposed. This will help with preparedness and a willingness to change. This is particularly important in Coastal Change Management Areas.[14]


  1. Data to make sound decisions: Coastal change needs to happen slowly and through a range of techniques, tools, data and practices. Where appropriate, greater publicly available data is required to make sound management decisions today and over multiple decades as sea-level rise operates on long time scales.[15]


  1. Documenting flood defences and assets: Climate change is likely to create a considerable strain on flood management assets, many of which are close to or past the end of their design life.[16] It is recommended to invest in a thorough update on the present condition and standard of protection of flood defences, thus improving our capacity to allocate resources and efforts to better prepare for future challenges.


  1. Working with nature: Greater working with nature and the ability to instigate small projects, with lower levels of funding, thus providing greater flexibility and opportunity for managed realignment that aligns to Shoreline Management Plans.[17],[18]


  1. New, flexible funding streams to achieve the above: This needs to go beyond habitat creation / managed realignment and defence building, including investment in community facilities, not just in protecting houses.[19]


  1. Invest in science, particularly where large uncertainties exist: National flood risk policies are often based on flood risk assessment that do not consider all sources of uncertainty.[20] This includes future sea-level rise, multiple sources of flooding, and socio-economic development. A recommendation is to develop a more integrated approach to flood risk across all sources of flooding and associated uncertainties.


Q4. How can communities most effectively be involved, and supported, in the policies and decisions that affect them?


  1. Our research is into coastal floods, but we believe our findings from workshops and interviews have value for fluvial flood risk. Communities may be involved more through:

a)      More continuous education and engagement that flood risk is always an issue, not just when a new defence scheme or change in coastal policy is current. Flood risk dialogue needs to become a continuous, accessible and inclusive process, so that people gain knowledge, awareness and trust to take responsibility of their flood risk.[21],[22] This requires new funding streams.

b)      A greater range of engagement techniques in non-typical places (not just those who turn up to consultations) to encourage preparedness planning and measures. This could, for example, include virtual reality technologies to visualise flooding or education of children from an earlier age.[23]

c)      Funding to protect key community buildings, not just homes.



Q5. With increasing focus on natural flood management measures, how should future agricultural and environmental policies be focussed and integrated with the Government’s wider approach to flood risk?


  1. Presently, Shoreline Management Plans do not widely acknowledge agriculture as they were not designed too. When talking with stakeholders in our NERC project (NE/S016651/1) this was a concern to some more than others, in terms of habitat, food and protection. If large areas of land face salinisation, the need for agricultural land needs to be addressed separately. This could include shifting agricultural areas landward and buying land in advance and anticipating change. This could have implications for inland flooding and habitat designation. The concerns of the agriculture community needs to be more fully integrated into flood risk management, to provide greater overall balance, so it is focused on more than just protecting homes.


  1. Our stakeholder consultations indicated win-wins were often not seen as strong enough, or enabled to be strong enough, such as realignment practices where small amount of funds were needed, or where land could be handed to other stakeholders to manage effectively as realignment occurs (e.g. shifting agricultural land to saltmarsh, thus allowing for habitat creation). This has implications for inland flooding where similar issues could apply.


Q6. How can housing and other development be made more resilient to flooding, and what role can be played by measures such as insurance, sustainable drainage and planning policy?


  1. Improved education and communication of flood risk. Such as likely availability of insurance or clear and simple data on flood risk pre-purchase of a property. Or for new properties, by offering free or low cost advice, at design and development stages, on resistance and resilience measures to developers of vulnerable locations, and fair access to the materials and expertise needed. Standard offerings in flood-vulnerable areas could include raised building foundations and utilities, appropriately chosen building materials or water resilient interior design and materials. Greater flexibility of government financial investments in properties (before or after an event) for those who cannot insure would be advantageous.


  1. Invest in updating combined drainage systems to meet modern demands: In newer developments, as appropriate, it is known that local urban drainage problems can be greatly aided with introduction of sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) and green infrastructure schemes.[24],[25],[26] Greater access, emphasis and guidance within the design and planning application stage, and reduction in overall (lifetime) costs, is essential for uptake, particularly considering climate change projections for the UK are predicting more intense patterns of rainfall over the next century.[27],[28],[29]





[1] van der Plank, S. in prep – PhD thesis to be submitted Summer 2020.

[2] Brown et al. (in prep) Long term shoreline management in England and Wales: challenges and opportunities. To submit to Journal of Flood Risk Management, autumn 2020.

[3] Brown et al. (in prep) (n 2)

[4] van der Plank, S. in prep (n 1)

[5] Brown et al. (in prep) (n 2)

[6] van der Plank, S. in prep (n 1)

[7] Rawlings, K. in prep PhD thesis to be submitted Summer 2020.

[8] Hendry, A., Haigh, I., Nicholls, R., Winter, H., Neal, R., Wahl, T., Joly-Laugel, A. and Darby, S., 2019. Assessing the characteristics and drivers of compound flooding events around the UK coast. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 23, pp.3117-3139.

[9] Bloemen, P., Reeder, T., Zevenbergen, C. et al. Lessons learned from applying adaptation pathways in flood risk management and challenges for the further development of this approach. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Change 23, 1083–1108 (2018).

[10] Cologna, V., Bark, R.H. and Paavola, J., 2017. Flood risk perceptions and the UK media: Moving beyond “once in a lifetime” to “Be Prepared” reporting. Climate Risk Management, 17, pp.1-10.

[11] van der Plank, S. in prep (n 1)

[12] Brown et al. (in prep) (n 2)

[13] van der Plank, S. in prep (n 1)

[14] Brown et al. (in prep) (n 2)

[15] ibid.

[16] Pinto Rascon, J.A. in prep - thesis to be submitted 2021.

[17] Davis, K.J., Binner, A., Bell, A., Day, B., Poate, T., Rees, S., Smith, G., Wilson, K. and Bateman, I., 2019. A generalisable integrated natural capital methodology for targeting investment in coastal defence. Journal of Environmental Economics and Policy, 8(4), pp.429-446.

[18] MacDonald, M.A., de Ruyck, C., Field, R.H., Bedford, A. and Bradbury, R.B., 2017. Benefits of coastal managed realignment for society: Evidence from ecosystem service assessments in two UK regions. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, p.105609.

[19] Brown et al. (in prep) (n 2)

[20] Pinto Rascon, J.A. in prep (n 16)

[21] Soane, Emma, Iljana Schubert, Peter Challenor, Rebecca Lunn, Sunitha Narendran, and Simon Pollard. 2010. ‘Flood Perception and Mitigation: The Role of Severity, Agency, and Experience in the Purchase of Flood Protection, and the Communication of Flood Information’. Environment and Planning A 42 (12): 3023–38.

[22] Owusu, Seth, Grant Wright, and Scott Arthur. 2015. ‘Public Attitudes towards Flooding and Property-Level Flood Protection Measures’. Natural Hazards 77 (3): 1963–78.

[23] Skinner, Chris. 2020. ‘Flash Flood!: A SeriousGeoGames Activity Combining Science Festivals, Video Games, and Virtual Reality with Research Data for Communicating Flood Risk and Geomorphology’. Geoscience Communication 3 (1): 1–17.

[24] Coleman, A. and Bide, P., 2019. Delivering better water management through the planning system (C787F). Available from:  https://www.ciria.org/ItemDetail?iProductCode=C787F&Category=FREEPUBS. CIRIA.

[25] Sharma, A., Gardner, T. and Begbie, D. eds., 2018. Approaches to Water Sensitive Urban Design: Potential, Design, Ecological Health, Urban Greening, Economics, Policies, and Community Perceptions. Woodhead Publishing.

[26] MHCLG (Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government). 2019. National Planning Policy Framework. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-planning-policy-framework--2. (accessed on 27 April 2020). Her Majesty’s Stationary Office.

[27] Charlesworth, S.M., 2010. A review of the adaptation and mitigation of global climate change using sustainable drainage in cities. Journal of Water and Climate Change, 1(3), pp.165-180.

[28] Environment Agency. 2020. Flood Risk Assessments: Climate Change Allowances. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/flood-risk-assessments-climate-change-allowances (accessed on 14 April 2020).

[29] Met Office. 2019. UK Climate Projections: Headline Findings. Available from: https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/research/approach/collaboration/ukcp/index. (Accessed on 27 April 2020).