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What’s next – recovering from flooding in the Midlands

As households, businesses and farmers across the Midlands are beginning to get to grips with the flood damage caused by Storm Henk, fears of future and more intense floods here in the Trent beg uncomfortable questions about the new and frequent calibre of storms we now see here on our doorsteps. Due to climate change, winters are becoming wetter and summers drier, leaving our rivers and landscapes vulnerable to extreme events – an issue that spills into households, businesses and infrastructure.

The answer to what’s next lies in the way in which we manage water as it flows, percolates and runs through landscapes, cities and towns. It is a question on how we can give space to more intense flashes of water in a joined-up way.

In an earlier post we wrote that:

Effective flood defences must rely on a range of different intervention measures. From flood barriers, careful town planning, engineered solutions, property flood resilience, Sustainable Drainage Schemes, and community response plans; there are many necessary pathways to a climate-resilient future.

This includes natural flood management, an often-overlooked method that reinstates and enhances natural processes, temporarily holding water and slowing the flow.

Creating or enhancing wetlands can be part of natural flood management

While all forms of flood interventions have a role to play, the scale of recent storms means that more needs to be done – and better.

To see long-term change, however, we need landscapes that can hold water, drainage systems that do not get overwhelmed during extreme weather, rivers with enough space to move through the landscape and infrastructure that allows water to soak rather than run off. It requires improvements in policy, more and novel ways of funding and commitment to flood risk reduction on all levels of government.

Going into 2024, we’ve seen some positive steps in the right direction. Farmers can now commit to more rewarding payment schemes with premiums on the most environmentally-friendly option. The omission of instant penalties also removes a worrisome barrier, encouraging wider take-up of the schemes available. Promisingly, schemes reward nature-based solutions that can reduce flood risk further downstream, floodplain reconnection, for example.

Some of it is taking shape locally already. This year, we’re implementing schemes to reduce flood risk in Burton-Joyce, Breedon, Endon, Whissendine, and upstream of Loughborough. However, with the ultimate goal of joined-up initiatives – much of the work to reduce flood risk needs to be facilitated further.

This means that funding, the incorporation of flood risk in planning decisions and the political will to support a catchment-wide approach at all levels of government will need to provide robust answers during this election year.

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