UK given deadline by EU to report on flood prevention

Insurers have warned of worrying ambiguity and uncertainty surrounding a proposed EU directive on flood risk management.

The Environmental Council held a crunch meeting to discuss the directive at the end of June, where it was widely anticipated that radical solutions would be found to cross-country flooding.

But now the EU has given member states until 2015 to compile a report on the risks of flooding in each country and what preventative measures are being taken. The EU has sent letters to the Environment Agency (EA) detailing how it expects the directive to be implemented.

In a letter, seen by Insurance Times, the EA has told its staff what is expected by the EU.

It includes: working with other EU countries to co-ordinate the water framework directive (WFD); employment of cross-country administration techniques to coordinate the directive; and involvement of all interested parties in implementation of the directive.

This has raised concerns that because Defra is to cut spending on maintenance of flood defences, the UK will fall behind and be forced to adopt EU law.

There are fears that the EA would be forced to re-write its national flood map to reflect EU standards. Furthermore, its flood defence systems would come under European control.

"On the face of it a report doesn't sound too onerous, but it could be that the EA will need to carry out further mapping work to produce the report," said Alan Gairns, property development manager for Royal & SunAlliance (R&SA).

"If that was the case, the risk then is that current EA funding would probably have to support this, putting further strain on the money available for flood defence work, and I'd have to question what benefit we would get in the UK from this being done."

The EU flood directive was proposed to help member states prevent and limit flooding.

Earlier this month government leaks revealed that spending on flood defences would be cut, despite lobbying from the insurance industry and pressure from senior ministers. The ABI has said it would campaign heavily against any reduction in flood defence budgets.