Bricks and Water: Managing flood risk and accelerating adaptation in a climate emergency

The Westminster Sustainable Business Forum calls for changes to the insurance industry to accelerate deployment of flood resilience measures and combat the climate crisis. 

Today, Baroness McIntosh of Pickering, will launch Policy Connect’s latest report on flooding - Bricks and Water: managing flood risk and accelerating adaption in a climate emergency. Environment Agency Chief Executive, John Curtin, will also speak at the launch event. This work by the Westminster Sustainable Business Forum welcomes the introduction of Flood Re’s Build Back Better scheme and calls for further action from the insurance industry to help property owners make their homes more resilient to flooding. 

Since 2013, more than 10% of all new homes in England have consistently been built on land at risk of flooding (flood zones 2 and 3). In response, this latest report from the Westminster Sustainable Business Forum - Bricks and Water: managing flood risk and accelerating adaption in a climate emergency calls for action from government, regulators, and industry to help vulnerable communities better manage the growing risks that they face from flooding as the climate crisis worsens. 

The report follows a yearlong inquiry, chaired by Baroness Mcintosh of Pickering, exploring the challenges surrounding flood risk management in England and drawing on evidence from a wide variety of stakeholders, including Parliamentarians, civil and public servants, academics, NGOs, and industry. 

Building on the success of their previous two Bricks and Water inquiries (2018 and 2020), Policy Connect and the Westminster Sustainable Business Forum have put forward a practical set of recommendations to help both newly planned development and existing properties be better protected from flooding. In particular, the report makes several recommendations for both government and industry, to accelerate the uptake of property flood resilience measures. 

The report calls for:  

  • Clearer planning guidance and greater resources for Local Planning Authorities to take enforcement action, 

  • The Government to enact Schedule 3 of the Flood and Water Management Act 2020, by the end of this year, and  

  • Updates to building regulations to include property flood resilience measures, a VAT exemption for products and materials used to make homes more resilience, the mandatory use of discounted insurance premiums, and adoption of the Build Back Better scheme throughout the insurance industry.  

Inquiry Chair, Baroness McIntosh of Pickering 

“This is the third inquiry that I have Chaired in the Bricks and Water series and it is possibly the most important, as vulnerable communities across the country continue to face regular disruption from flooding.”   

“It is more than a decade since Sir Michael Pitt’s review into flooding that affected the UK in summer 2007. However, progress has been slow on changes that are vitally needed to mitigate flood risk – in particular, the mandatory use of Sustainable Drainage Systems and removing the automatic right for developers to connect surface water drainage to public sewers.  The recommendations that we have made in this report seek to facilitate better flood risk management both for new and existing communities.” 

Report co-author, Rob Allen 

“Throughout this inquiry we have heard directly of the devastating effects flooding can have on vulnerable communities. Not only do these events carry significant economic cost, they also have lasting physical and mental health impacts on individuals. It is therefore vital that we legislate to make planning policy relating to flood risk management more robust and, at the same time, help property owners adapt their homes to be more resilient.” 

Tim Myatt, inquiry co-sponsor, Yorkshire Water 

“As a water and sewerage company that serves customers within one of the most flood-prone areas of the country, Yorkshire Water is delighted to have been able to support this inquiry by the Westminster Sustainable Business Forum. The inquiry draws attention to the importance of Sustainable Drainage Systems, which are a vital tool to help reduce flood risk and manage surface water close to where it falls. We welcome recent progress on implementation of Schedule 3 of the Flood and Water Management Act and we support this inquiry’s recommendations that this should be legislated for at pace.” 

Notes to editors 

For further information contact Vic, Victoria.Zeybrandt [at] (Victoria[dot]Zeybrandt[at]policyconnect[dot]org[dot]uk)

About Policy Connect:

Policy Connect is a cross-party think tank. We specialise in supporting parliamentary groups, forums and commissions, delivering impactful policy research and event programmes and bringing together parliamentarians and government in collaboration with academia, business and civil society to help shape public policy in Westminster and Whitehall, so as to improve people’s lives.

Our work focusses on five key policy areas which are: Education & Skills; Industry, Technology & Innovation; Sustainability; Health; and Assistive & Accessible Technology.

We are a social enterprise and are funded by a combination of regular annual membership subscriptions and time-limited sponsorships. We are proud to be a Disability Confident and London Living Wage employer, and a member of Social Enterprise UK.

About the Westminster Sustainable Business Forum: 

The Westminster Sustainable Business Forum (WSBF) is Policy Connect’s coalition of high-level stakeholders informing better policymaking on sustainability issues for the built environment. 

Providing a politically neutral environment for knowledge sharing and discussion on sustainability policy, the WSBF helps to impact the agenda in government and is a trusted source of independent information and advice for policymakers. 

The WSBF publishes authoritative research reports; impacts Government policy through its in-depth round table policy discussions and outputs; and informs the wider sustainability debate by convening key stakeholders at our larger policy events and seminars.