The Environment Agency’s approach to Property Flood Resilience
Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management (FCERM) Events Manager at the Environment Agency
A key component of resilience is helping local people and businesses to recover by ‘building back better’ after a flood. If a property owner is already paying for clean-up and other related building activities, it can be quicker and cheaper for them to just return their property to how it was before the flood. This risks being short sighted given the unavoidable impacts of climate change, which will mean we will see more frequent flooding in the future. In high flood-risk areas, it is better in the long run if flood resilience measures can be installed in properties before flooding happens.
The recently published Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management (FCERM) Policy Statement and Environment Agency FCERM Strategy both promote the strategic and operational direction of Property Flood Resilience more so than ever before. Our Strategy identifies that more focus is needed on encouraging property owners to ‘build back better’ after a flood and to mainstream Property Flood Resilience measures that reduce flood damages and enable faster recovery for local communities.
To achieve this objective we have committed to the following measures:
Measure 2.4.1: From 2021 risk management authorities will work with the finance sector, Flood Re and the property flood resilience industry to increase the uptake of property flood resilience measures in communities at highest risk.
Measure 2.4.2: By 2025 the Environment Agency will work with government and other partners to tackle the policy, financial and behavioural barriers to mainstreaming property flood resilience measures and ‘building back better’ after flooding.
We are spending approximately £3.6 million on Property Flood Resilience between 2015 and 2021 to better protect nearly 3,000 properties. 97 Property Flood Resilience projects were delivered in total in financial years 2015/16, 2016/17, 2017/18, 2018/19 and 2019/20 totalling 2201 individual properties better protected. 19 Property Flood Resilience projects are being delivered in the financial year 2020/21 protecting a further 752 properties. The next six year FCERM programme looks to double the number of houses better protected by property flood resilience measures.
The long-term investment scenarios work we undertake considers the role that other flood and coastal risk management activities could play in combination with traditional flood and coastal defences including property flood resilience. The long-term investment scenarios show the potential for an estimated 200,000 homes in England to be fitted with property flood resilience over the next 50 years having the potential to reduce national flood risk by about 16% in England. L:\DOCUMENT\Flood Risk Management\PFR Pathfinder\PFR Team Docs\Contact Details
Other EA-led Property Flood Resilience initiatives
Property Flood Resilience Pathfinders
£2.9m is being invested in the Property Flood Resilience Pathfinder project, which was launched in April 2019 and aims to boost the uptake of property flood resilience measures through education, advice portals and innovative initiatives to make homes and buildings more resilient to floods.
Three pathfinder projects across Yorkshire, the Oxfordshire to Cambridge Arc, and Devon and Cornwall were selected to reduce the potential impacts of flooding and encourage more people to make their homes resilient to flooding. The funding will go towards new research initiatives, demonstration centres and advice portals that will help local communities learn about the benefits of installing property flood resilience measures in their homes. The Environment Agency is supporting the evaluation of these projects and will share the best practice across the country.
Property Flood Resilience Code of Practice
We have also part-funded the industry-wide property flood resilience Code of Practice, which was launched in February 2020. This consolidated guidance provides a standardised approach for the delivery and management of Property Flood Resilience.
Training and Accreditation
In October 2020 we undertook a gap analysis of industry-wide Property Flood Resilience training linked to the key elements of the Code of Practice. We will procure a training developer to fill the gaps identified and we have also worked with CIWEM to design an accreditation process for the training.
Work with Businesses
We contracted Business in the Community to develop bespoke Property Flood Resilience guidance for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises, which will be disseminated across the country.
Research and Evidence
We have also developed and published key research into the behavioural insights of property flood resilience, available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/applying-behavioural-insights-to-property-flood-resilience. Throughout the remainder of the year we will be testing these concepts further via three lab experiments looking at the incentives and barriers to increased resilience.
Enhanced Data Collation
Better data is required across the industry to capture all of the properties that have benefited from Property Flood Resilience in the past. We have recently commissioned a piece of work which will look at the creation of a map-based data system to capture this data in a consistent way. Having the correct data and evidence around Property Flood Resilience will instil trust in the insurance sector and to help create price reflective markets. We will need to find a way to share and receive data securely with risk management organisations and the Property Flood Resilience industry.
Property Flood Resilience Supplier Framework
We have a procurement framework in place for the delivery of Property Flood Resilience. This framework is available to all Risk Management Authorities to use and includes eight suppliers. The framework runs from 2018 to 2022. The framework provides services and works across the whole of England with the aim of identifying and implementing measures that can be taken in order to make properties at high risk of flooding more resilient. However the current framework does not align with the recent standards set out by the British Standards Institute (BS851188) and the Property Flood Resilience Code of Practice. Together these standards aim to improve confidence in Property Flood Resilience as a solution to reduce the risk of flooding; improve the quality of Property Flood Resilience products and subsequently increase Property Flood Resilience take-up. It is therefore critical that the framework reflects these industry standards. By the summer of 2021 we will develop a Framework that:
- Reflects changes in national standards and lessons learnt through the delivery of the existing Framework.
- Is accepted by the industry and attracts fair competition during the tendering process with the aim of delivering better quality outputs for the customer.
- Is used by Risk Management Authorities for the procurement of future Property Flood Resilience Projects.
Funding and Investment
Risk management authorities can apply for government funding from the Environment Agency to deliver Property Flood Resilience projects, however where funding (grant in aid) is awarded most Property Flood Resilience schemes still need a local contribution to proceed. Also, only homes at very significant risk qualify for the funding at present and the funding is mainly being used to install resistance measures rather than recoverability measures as these offer the best benefit cost ratios. There are a number of issues that we are exploring with Defra to ensure that the investment choices made, reflect the pace and ambition needed over the coming years to increase the up-take of Property Flood Resilience.
The 2016 report from the Property Flood Resilience Roundtable, chaired by Peter Bonfield, called for a better national understanding of what property level resilience is amongst individuals, communities and businesses. The Property Flood Resilience Roundtable continues to function as a means of bringing together key public, private and civil society partners to raise awareness of the benefits and promote the take up of property flood resilience measures and we play a key role in this group. Via the Roundtable we are working with the financial sector, including mortgage lenders and insurers, as they have a vital role to play in helping to stimulate the market in property flood resilience measures and tackling the barriers to building back better following flooding. To this end we are also supporting the work of Flood Re in promoting property flood resilience measures. They have recommended the freedom to offer lower insurance premiums for properties that have been made more resilient to flooding and to be able to support insurers who decide to encourage more resilient repairs following a flood.
All of the initiatives outlined above need to come together as a mosaic of activities for the shift needed to deliver the overall objective of increasing the uptake of Property Flood Resilience. We are working to achieve all of these ambitions over the next two years, including:
- The Code of Practice and associated guidance being firmly in place by February 2021 and embedded throughout industry practices;
- The associated training and accreditation processes in place;
- An improved standard of products and associated testing facilities available;
- A robust and easy to use National Property Flood Resilience supplier framework to ensure schemes can be delivered to a high standard,
- A simplified funding process for capital schemes;
- Improved data capture; and
- A price reflective insurance market.
 Flood Re, Quinquennial Review, 2019.