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Environment Agency head is criticised by South Holland and the Deepings MP Sir John Hayes over 'inaccurate predictions of flood risk'




Fears that large parts of South Holland might have to be evacuated because of flooding have been branded "unnecessary scaremongering" by the area's MP.

Sir John Hayes accused The Environment Agency of inaccurately predicting flood risk across the UK after it produced a map showing that there is a medium to high risk in South Holland.

The MP for South Holland and the Deepings was also responding to a speech by Emma Howard Boyd, chairman of The Environment Agency, who said that "no one wants to live in an energy-efficient house that could be washed away in a flood".

Emma Howard Boyd, chairman of the Environment Agency. Photo supplied. (10439094)
Emma Howard Boyd, chairman of the Environment Agency. Photo supplied. (10439094)

During a speech at London's Brunel University on Thursday, Ms Howard Boyd said: "No one has, or will, ever be able to stop flooding or coastal erosion altogether.

"But this country has come a long way since 1953 when an East Coast storm surge killed over 300 people.

"In 2013, we experienced a much stronger surge than 1953 and yet there were no fatalities because our warnings, evacuation procedures and flood defences are much better.

"Today, we must continue to build on that progress and guard against complacency.

"We need to move away from talking about flood 'defence' as we cannot win a war against water and we cannot expect to build our way out of future climate risks with infinitely high walls and barriers."

Ms Howard Boyd went on to predict that "in some places, the scale of the threat may be so significant that recovery will not always be the best long-term solution.

She said: "In these instances, we will help communities to move out of harm’s way."

A new Flood and Coastal Risk Management Strategy has been launched by The Environment Agency. Photo supplied.
A new Flood and Coastal Risk Management Strategy has been launched by The Environment Agency. Photo supplied.

But speaking to the Spalding Guardian on Tuesday, Sir John said: "For many years, the Environment Agency has produced prediction maps which have identified flood risk areas.

"But we've always argued that the problem with these maps is that they show the Fens and, in particular South Holland are at imminent risk of flooding.

"Yet these maps take no account of the history of flooding which, over the last 20 years, has happened in the south west of England, Cumbria, Lancashire and the West Midlands.

"There have been no floods in South Holland and the Fens since 1953 so rather than causing alarm and affecting insurance premiums, the Environment Agency should be taking into account this area's flood risk and flood defences."

Sir John Hayes MP accused The Environment Agency of ‘alarming and distressing very large numbers of my constituents’ with its warnings about flooding in South Holland. Photo supplied.
Sir John Hayes MP accused The Environment Agency of ‘alarming and distressing very large numbers of my constituents’ with its warnings about flooding in South Holland. Photo supplied.

According to information from Lincolnshire County Council about coastal flood risk, South Holland and other parts of the county's coast are protected by 128km of raised sea defences, accounting for 40 per cent of the total land area of Lincolnshire.

Flood prevention measures across the county are overseen by the Lincolnshire Flood Risk and Water Management Partnership, formed in 2010 and whose members include Welland and Deepings, South Holland and Black Sluice Internal Drainage Boards, Anglian Water, South Holland District Council and the Environment Agency.

A report produced by the partnership in May 2018 said: "Its purpose is to ensure that local communities, businesses and infrastructure are better protected from flood risk.

"Also that improved resilience towards flood risk is built into all aspects of planning and service provision in the future and that effective management of these risks supports the county's aspirations for future growth."

Sir John said: "It's true that we had a tidal surge in Boston nearly six years and there have been high sea levels there since then.

"But we've not had one in South Holland and whilst it's vital that we retain sea defences and improve them, working with organisations to create an even more impregnable barrier against the sea, the Environment Agency should be getting behind this work.

"This is better that saying 'We're all going to be flooded and there's nothing we can do about it".

The Palace of Westminster which includes the Houses of Parliament.
The Palace of Westminster which includes the Houses of Parliament.

In the House of Commons on Thursday, Sir John called for The Environment Agency to be "held to account for alarming and distressing very large numbers of my constituents".

Responding to Sir John, Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom said: "I understand Sir John's concern about unnecessary scaremongering.

"However, the chairman of the Environment Agency does an excellent job."

A new Flood and Coastal Risk Management Strategy has been launched by The Environment Agency. Photo supplied.
A new Flood and Coastal Risk Management Strategy has been launched by The Environment Agency. Photo supplied.

An Environment Agency spokesman said: "The Environment Agency uses the latest science and modelling to assess flood risk and all relevant elements are taken into account.

"However, climate change will have a huge impact on this in the future and our strategy recognises this.

"We have many projects under way to protect communities and reduce the risk of flooding which will continue as the Environment Agency does all that we can for the people and businesses in the area."



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