The cost of flood prevention – Sue Illman comments

We recently launched Water Matters, a series of events investigating a range of water management issues.

The first of these events was a debate titled 'The Next Big Flood - Why The UK Won't Be Ready'. With a panel of high profile expert speakers and guest chair Janet Street-Porter at the helm, this was an exciting, engaging event that stirred up great conversation.

These highlights from Sue Illman, Construction Industry Council Champion for Flood Mitigation and Resilience, are taken from our white paper summary of the event.

Factors influencing UK flooding

”Research says that flooding is only ever going to get worse,” Sue commented at The Big Debate. ”This is due to our cities becoming ever denser and generally removing soft surfaces that can absorb water.

In addition, climate change is bringing more intensive, longer storms and most of our towns and cities are located along rivers which – with surface water and rainwater flooding – exacerbate the problem.

Lastly, our old sewer system is a combined surface and foul water system which was not designed to cope with the amount of water being sent down it.

To deal with our current problems and build in future resilience, we have to ensure that all new development deals with its own water adequately and doesn’t contribute to the problem, and that redevelopment isn’t let off the hook.”

Watch Sue’s interview videos from The Big Debate here


Options available for flood management

SuDS (Sustainable Urbran Drainage Systems) were the topic of our recent webinar with Building magazine (available to listen to here) and one of the options available to manage the excess of water flooding causes.

”We can use a whole range of hard and soft systems. It doesn’t matter as long as we deal with it,” Sue stated when the panel discussed flood management at The Big Debate. ”I’m an advocate of soft SuDS because we can then get all of the additional multifunctional benefits that accrue, allowing us to improve our urban environment for everyone that lives there, reduce urban heat islands, and improve air and water quality, biodiversity and public health.

The final implementation of Schedule 3 of the Flood and Water Management Act would have dealt with SuDs policy for all new development everywhere, but it was hijacked by DCLG at the end of 2014 which essentially emasculated the approach that had been set out.

We are consequently left in something of a muddle in terms of knowing what’s required, what’s acceptable, whether it can be adopted or not by water companies and who will maintain it.”

Learn more about SuDS in our CPD session.

The cost of flood prevention

In addition to the emotional trauma and inconvenience of flooding, there are of course financial losses with cost to the UK insurance company over the last 10 years thought to be close to staggering £4 billion.

Costs of flooding to the UK

”Because it isn’t mandatory, those who don’t wish to do it have the get out built into the guidance that they can say it’s not appropriate or too costly,” Sue observes. ”Flooding is too costly for the people who suffer it. In terms of retrofit, the good news is that Lead Local Flood Authorities within councils are developing their management plans; there is a lot of interesting and good work going on.

From the planning authority through to highways, developers, water companies, business people and the population at large we have to involve everyone to understand the problem and get on with dealing with it. We have the ability, we know what to do, but I think flooding will continue.”

Watch Sue's interview videos from The Big Debate

Sue is Managing Director of Illman Young, a private landscape architecture practice based in Cheltenham which has been in business for over 25 years. As the Construction Industry Council’s Champion for Flood Mitigation and Resilience, she is also an advocate on water management within the construction industry.

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