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UK floods damage 'could have been prevented'

F R I D AY 21 FEBRUARY 2014 Environmental experts say the damage a!sed "y the re ent #looding o!ld have "een prevented i# the orre t $ater management te hni%!es had "een !sed&

An open letter published in the Daily Telegraph sets out technical measures which could cut the risk of future floods, including the use of forestry and land management to hold back water in the upper reaches of rivers, and dredging to ease problems in the lower reaches.

The experts said that sustainable drainage systems should be fitted on existing and new buildings and that buildings and land that cannot be properly protected should be made resilient to withstand flooding.

All new housing on flood plains should be resilient when built, they said.

'(ater management' "While we are pleased to hear that the prime minister will provide leadership and funding, it is essential that government actions are based on best practice developed over many years," the letter says.

"Water management techni ues could have helped prevent the effect of flooding on villages, towns and over surrounding land seen recently.

"!mergency measures are in order for the immediate crisis. "ut in the long term, the management of water re uires a clear strategy." )he letter omes a day after the #et $ffice confirmed that the %& has suffered its wettest winter in records dating "a * more than a ent!ry& Fig!res #or 1 De em"er to 1+ Fe"r!ary sho$ that the U, has had 1+&2 in hes o# rain- ma*ing it the $ettest $inter in re ords dating "a * to 1+10- "eating the previo!s re ord set in 1++. o# 1+&1 in hes& Two severe flood warnings remain in place in the 'omerset (evels, which has been one of the worst)hit areas this winter, suffering prolonged flooding in the face of repeated storms and heavy rain.

Across the rest of southern and central !ngland, the risk of flooding is receding as river levels fall, including along the Thames and 'evern, the !nvironment Agency said.

"ut properties in areas including Windsor and #aidenhead, 'urrey, "uckinghamshire, Wokingham and West "erkshire could remain flooded for some time.

And with more unsettled weather on the way, the risk of flooding will be

slow to disappear, the !nvironment Agency warned.

There are *+ flood warnings, and ,,- less serious flood alerts currently in place across !ngland and Wales.

.round water is continuing to rise, with continuing flooding in parts of .reater (ondon, &ent, /ampshire, Wiltshire and Dorset.

0n the letter, the experts urge David 1ameron to convene a cross) departmental conference bringing together Whitehall departments, the !nvironment Agency and the professions to put in place measures to prevent a repeat of the current floods. '/hort0termist salami0sli ing' The call came as shadow chancellor !d "alls pledged that investment in flood defences would be a priority for an incoming (abour government. Writing in the Daily Telegraph, #r "alls accused the coalition government of "short)termist salami)slicing" of budgets for flood defences, and said that 2++ "shovel)ready" schemes were shelved last year because of lack of funding.

#r "alls said that a review carried out for (abour by $lympic supremo 'ir 3ohn Armitt had identified the construction of flood defences which can cope with the potential effects of climate change as "a national priority".

'ir 3ohn will soon publish draft legislation to create an independent 4ational 0nfrastructure 1ommission to identify the %&5s long)term infrastructure

needs and hold governments of all political colours to account for delivering them.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, #r "alls said6 "$f course, if (abour wins the next election, there will need to be spending cuts. There will be a big deficit still to be brought down after the global financial crisis and the chancellor 7.eorge $sborne8 is set to break his promise to balance the books by 9+,:.

""ut how we make those cuts is vital. $ur ;ero)based review of public spending ) a root)and)branch review of every pound spent by government from the bottom up ) is clear that we must eliminate waste and inefficiencies, but also prioritise preventative spending that can save money in the long term.

"There can be few better examples than investment in flood defences."