concerns that the Government’s approach risks being too focused on short-term problems are expressed in an open letter to Mr Cameron signed by leading professional bodies involved in flood prevention and water management, led by the Landscape Institute, which represents landscape architects.
“The commitment to provide essential funding is a useful step, but it is even more essential that this is invested appropriately, and provides the best and most sustainable outcome to both society and the affected communities,” the letter states.
The experts are calling for planners to adopt a series of measures aimed at tackling the risk of flooding, including exploring how measures like planting trees can hold back water in the upper reaches of rivers.
All new developments in towns and cities should include flood alleviation and protection measures, and that any new homes built on flood plains must be resilient to flooding.
The letter continues: “A comprehensive range of water management techniques could have helped prevent the effect of water through villages, towns and over the surrounding land seen in the last few weeks.”
Sue Illman, president of the Landscape Institute, said: “This group of institutions were concerned that there seemed to be a culture of blame between departments. There seemed to be a lot of knee-jerk responses to the immediate problem.
“We want the money that is going to be invested spent wisely to give us a proper outcome.”
The professionals are particularly worried that Ministers’ promises to carry out extensive dredging of rivers, a move demanded by many flooded householders that reverses recent Environment Agency policy, may prove counter-productive.
Dredging on the inundated Somerset Levels will start at the end of next month as long as it is safe and practical to do so, the agency announced on Thursday.
Five miles of river channel where the Tone and Parrett rivers meet at Burrowbridge – an area identified by local people for dredging and where “significant amounts of silt” have built up – will be cleared out.
However, Ms Illman said: “If we just dredge inappropriately, we could just end up flooding other properties downstream.
“We are very concerned that huge amounts of money might be spent on dredging where it wasn’t necessarily appropriate.
“We are more concerned that if we are investing in water management, that we do so effectively, and don’t just respond to a crisis but respond to the long-term issues.”
The letter adds: “In the long-term, the way in which we manage, store and distribute our water, and how we rethink and plan both the natural environment, and the built environment of our towns and cities to make them more resilient, requires a clear strategy.”
Of course downstream of the levels is the sea – so probably an exception to the general rule.