NFU contributes to Defra report on surface water flooding

03 September 2020


Defra has published a report they commissioned to look into surface water flooding and drainage assets. Here's an insight into the report’s recommendations, which the NFU fed into, and any implications it may have for agriculture. 

Key reading:
  • Information on Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS), riparian ownership and flood investigations under Section 19 of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 (section 19 flood investigations). Read now.
  • Findings and recommendations of the report  - read the NFU briefing.


Defra commissioned an independent review looking into reducing the risk of surface water flooding including a review of drainage assets. The NFU was one of the consultees of this report and is quoted several times within it.

This article and this briefing includes information on Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS), riparian ownership and flood investigations under section 19 of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 (section 19 flood investigations).

The government commissioned an independent review to investigate surface water flooding across England and has taken immediate action to implement some of the report’s recommendations.

The government plans to use this report to build on the recent publication of the Government’s flooding statement and the Environment Agency’s (EA) Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy, to create a more resilient nation.

Surface water flooding generally occurs after heavy thunderstorms or rainfall, due to the volume of rainwater not draining away or soaking into the ground. Due to the localised nature of such heavy rain, it can be very difficult to predict.

The review, which was led by David Jenkins, Chair of the Wessex Regional Flood and Coastal Committee (RFCC), looked at responsibility for surface water and drainage assets, and has provided recommendations on how to make these arrangements more efficient, straightforward and effective.

While the review will now be considered in full by ministers, the government is immediately accepting 12 of the recommendations. This will ensure better understanding of surface water flood risk by all authorities and a more coordinated and efficient approach across England.

A flooded farm in West Yorkshire during Storm Dennis, February 2020_72818

A flooded farm in West Yorkshire during Storm Dennis, February 2020

Immediate recommendations

One of the recommendations which has been immediately accepted by government is that Defra ensures the ready availability of national guidance in relation to Section 19 investigations and reports.

A Section 19 investigation is carried out by an independent Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA) after a flood event to determine if there were/were not any actions taken that would have prevented/reduced the flood impact. Several have been carried out in the last year due to the recent flood events. However, the process has been scrutinised by LLFAs therefore the Defra commissioned report looked into this investigative process.

The report also recommends that national guidance includes the importance of engaging with local residents and businesses affected by the flood, and of relevant risk management authorities collaborating in the investigation and in the implementation of its recommendations.

Further recommendations

Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS)

The report encourages government departments and the EA to pursue opportunities to promote best practice of surface water management through relevant professional and trade bodies, including through the successful implementation of sustainable drainage schemes.

Schedule 3 to the Flood and Water Management Act: Adoption and Maintenance of SuDS

The NFU has been lobbying for Schedule 3 to the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 to be brought into force as SuDS are being increasingly installed and implemented to help overcome the increasing pressures from surface water flooding. Some Lead Local Flood Authorities are doing this and then relying on the landowner to carry out maintenance and take on the responsibility of this feature. We believe that this cannot continue.

The report states that Defra has taken note of the strong views of respondents on the weaknesses of the present arrangements for ensuring appropriate standards of design and construction, and effective continuing maintenance, of sustainable drainage systems for new development.

The NFU is pleased that the report recommends that the case be re-examined for bringing into effect Schedule 3 of the Flood and Water Management Act of 2010, or some equivalent mandatory arrangements.

Riparian Ownership

The NFU is pleased that the report recognises that the responsibilities of landowners, or “riparian owners”, are a vital contribution to flood risk management systems.

More information

Defra is considering the remaining recommendations that are stated in the report. The full report can be found here. The NFU played a key role in contributing to this report and we will continue to work with Defra and the EA to ensure agricultural land is adequately valued and protected from future flood risk.

For further information on the findings and recommendations of this report read the NFU briefing here.

More of the NFU's work on flooding for members:


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