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MINISTER CALLS FOR REPORT ON JUNE FLOODS

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The suffering experienced by communities in Northern England as a ...
The suffering experienced by communities in Northern England as a

result of the floods in June was acknowledged by Elliot Morley,

parliamentary secretary at the ministry of agriculture. He called for

the Environment Agency to provide a report on the floods, their

causes, and what lessons can be learned.

Mr Morley announced his call for a report alongside publication of

the Environment Agency's report showing that its substantial work

programme to implement its Action Plan following the Easter 1998

floods is almost complete.

In a written answer to a parliamentary question, Mr Morley said:

'The chairman of the Environment Agency has provided me with a report

of progress up to the end of April 2000. I am pleased to note that the major work programme set out in the Action Plan is almost complete.

Key developments since the Agency's last report, which covered the

period to end of December 1999, are as follows;

- Completion of the first phase of the telemetry works resulting in

an additional 109 river level gauges, 16 river flow gauges and 65

rain gauges. These will enable conditions to be monitored during

flooding and the calibration of flood models.

- A concordat between the agency and the Meteorological Office has

been signed to provide a framework for improved liaison and

exchange of data.

- The agency has completed its programme of visual inspections of

its flood defences. Local authorities have inspected between 75%

and 90% of their defences. The remainder are scheduled for

completion by September in line with the ministry's High Level

Targets. Defences belonging to third parties have been inspected

where identified through discussions with local authorities.

- Of the 1.6 million properties within the flood plain, one million

addresses have been identified as high risk. This will enable

flood risk information and other publicity material to be better

targeted within the wider flood plain.

- A letter designed to raise awareness of the flood risk to caravan

sites has been produced and distributed together with a request

for site owners to make visitors aware of such risks and what they

should do in the event of a flood.

- The agency is producing guidelines to enable the severity and

extent of flooding to be calculated on a consistent basis in order

to better inform post event surveys.

Two activities have yet to be fully completed by the agency. These

are the introduction of the new flood warning codes and revised

management structures. The new flood warning codes are scheduled to

be introduced on 12 September 2000. The introduction of the revised

management structures will be phased during April to September 2000

in order to minimise the risk of disruption to services.

The agency's Easter Floods Project Team has now completed its work

and is to be congratulated for its efforts in delivering the Action

Plan and meeting the priorities I set out in striving for a seamless

and integrated service of flood forecasting, warning and response.

The outstanding issues will be taken forward by the agency's National

Flood Warning Centre. Further activity in improving flood defence

will be driven by the High Level Targets that the government set last

November.

As regards the flooding earlier this month, I am acutely aware of the

suffering experienced by many communities in Northern England, and

express the government's sympathy to all those affected. I have asked

the chairman of the Environment Agency to provide a report on the

flooding, by 21 July 2000, to include:

- the impact of the flooding

- the causes of the flooding, including assessment of the

contributory factors suggested by local members of the public

- the effectiveness and timeliness of flood warnings

- to what extent the effects of these floods were mitigated as a

result of the measures taken to implement the Independent Report

of the Easter 1998 floods

- what further lessons can be learned from these floods.'

Notes

1. The flooding earlier this month affected a number of areas of

Northern England. Some 900 homes and other properties were

affected.

2. The floods in Easter 1998 affected large areas of Central

England and Wales and were the worst experienced for many years.

3. Following the floods the Environment Agency, which is

responsible for flood warning in England and Wales, commissioned

an Independent Review of the floods, under the chairmanship of

Peter Bye. The ensuing report, published in September 1998,

contained recommendations for improving flood forecasting, flood

warning and emergency response arrangements and for changes in the

Agency's management structures and skills base.

4. Following the report, in a Parliamentary Statement on 20 October

1998, Elliot Morley set out the need to achieve a seamless and

integrated service of flood forecasting, warning and response by

April 2000. Mr Morley also set out eight priorities for the agency

to achieve in delivering that overall target.

5. The Environment Agency responded to the ministerial requirement

in its November 1998 Action Plan for implementing the Report's

recommendations. This plan included the ministerial priorities,

and a number of other specific actions, all of which will

contribute to delivering a seamless and integrated service.

6. The Environment Agency chairman, John Harman, has provided

Mr Morley with a progress report on implementation of the Action

Plan, including the ministerial priorities, up to the end of March

2000

7. MAFF provided direct funding of some£3m in 1999-2000

towards the cost of implementing the measures in the Action Plan.

Further contributions to ongoing work will be made in this and

future years.

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