RESPONSIBILITIES FOR MANAGING FLOOD RISK IN SCOTLAND
Background to the current institutional arrangements for flooding in Scotland
The Scottish Government
The Scottish Government has overall responsibility for policy on flood management in Scotland.
The Scottish Government’s Scottish Flood Defence Asset Database provides a register of fluvial and coastal defences constructed in Scotland under the Flood Prevention (Scotland) Act 1961. There are 72 such schemes providing a total of 61km of defences which protect some 4,580 properties.
The total number of properties which were at risk of flooding in Scotland was last considered in 2002. We then understood that the figure was 171,000 – 94,000 at risk on the coast and 77,000 at risk from rivers. The recently published SEPA indicative flood map and our assessment of what properties are protected by flood prevention schemes built since 1961, allowed us to reach a more informed estimate of 99,000 properties at high to medium risk ( greater than 0.5% annual probability) – 26,000 at risk from the sea and 73,000 at risk from rivers. This revised estimate gives a better understanding of the scale of risk to Scottish property and households, which we need to work together to reduce. Around 5% of the land area of Scotland is at risk of flooding from rivers or the sea and within this area 3.9% of all Scottish properties – residential and business – are at risk. The Scottish Government’s move to a more strategic view of how we respond to flood risk will be strengthened by this clarity of focus. Such clarity is of utmost importance as the government embarks on reform of flooding legislation and pursues sustainable flood management.
In Scotland, the primary responsibility for protecting land from flooding lies with the owner of the land concerned. The Water Environment and Water Services (Scotland) Act 2003 (WEWS) placed a duty on the Scottish Government, SEPA, local authorities, Scottish Water and other responsible authorities to promote sustainable flood management in the exercise of their relevant functions.
River and coastal flooding
Local authorities have wide discretionary powers, under the Flood Prevention (Scotland) Act 1961, to mitigate flooding of non-agricultural land in their areas. Authorities are not limited to their own administrative area in using their powers to mitigate flooding and may use them jointly with other authorities sharing a catchment.
For new or improved defences, local authorities must promote a flood prevention scheme which is widely advertised before being submitted to the Scottish Government for confirmation. Only objections from those whose interest in land is affected by the carrying out of a scheme or the change in the flow of water must be considered at a public local inquiry. Scottish Government may confirm with or without modification, or refuse to confirm a scheme.
Currently £42 million a year is made available by the Scottish Government as grant, at a rate of 80% of eligible costs, to support local authorities’ flood prevention/coast protection programme (subject to schemes meeting certain technical, environmental and economic criteria). The Scottish Government's current criteria for confirmed flood prevention schemes stipulate that the scheme should reduce the risk of flooding to no greater than 1% (annual probability of occurrence) and consider the likely impacts of climate change over the life of the scheme.
The Flood Prevention and Land Drainage (Scotland) Act 1997 amended the Flood Prevention (Scotland) Act 1961, and, for the first time and unique to Scotland in a UK context, placed certain duties on local authorities with regard to their flood prevention powers:-
• Duty to assess the condition of watercourses from time to time to ascertain whether their condition was likely to cause flooding of non-agricultural land in their area.
• Duty to maintain watercourses in a due state of efficiency where such maintenance would substantially reduce the risk of such flooding
• Duty to publish a biennial report of instances of flooding and measures taken since their last report, and any further measures they consider they require to take to mitigate flooding of non-agricultural land.
Roads Authorities (Scottish Government for trunk roads, local authorities for all other public works) have powers under the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984 to carry out certain works to keep roads free from surface water.
Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) 7 - Planning and Flooding sets out the national planning policy regarding development proposals and flood risk. Its central purpose is to prevent further development which would have a significant probability of being affected by flooding from any source, including watercourses and on the coast. The SPP is wide ranging (it runs to 17 pages) but 2 key things it says are that built development should not take place on the functional flood plain, and that undeveloped or sparsely developed areas are not suitable for additional development if the flood risk is classed as ‘medium to high’ (annual risk over 1:200). The SPP is supported by Planning Advice Note 69 – Planning and Building Standards Advice on Flooding (60 pages) which provides detailed information, advice and case studies. The SPP and PAN encourage local authorities to set up informal Flood Liaison and Advice Groups as forums for all local interests to discuss flooding issues.
Planning Authorities have powers provided under the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) 1995 to take flood risk into account in determining planning applications and to refuse them if appropriate. If a proposal is likely to increase the number of buildings at risk of flooding, secondary legislation requires the authority to consult SEPA who have a statutory duty to provide advice. If a planning authority wishes to approve an application contrary to SEPA's advice, the application has to be notified to the Scottish Government who may decide to call it in for their own decision.
SEPA is a protector of the water environment, and has no specific functions for flood defence. However, SEPA’s functions include; assessing from time to time flood risk in Scotland, providing advice on flood risk to planning authorities and operating flood warning systems.
SEPA takes the lead in increasing public awareness of flood risk and, under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004, for the dissemination of flood warnings through Floodline which was launched in Scotland in November 2001.
In November 2006, SEPA published improved flood risk maps on its website http://www.sepa.org.uk/flooding/mapping/index.htm which show land with a 0.5% or greater chance of flooding from rivers or the sea in any year. However; the map contains only limited information on the location of existing defences which have not been taken into account in assessing the flood risk.
Since 1 April 2006, under the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2005 (CAR) SEPA regulates abstractions, impoundments and engineering works, including flood prevention schemes, in the vicinity of inland waters in order to meet the environmental objectives of WEWS.
Scottish Water has statutory responsibility for effectually draining its area of domestic sewage, surface water and trade effluent under the Sewerage (Scotland) Act 1968.
At present, Scottish Water is putting considerable effort into understanding flooding problems. It records flooding information in each of its operational areas into a Scottish Water Flooding Register. This records instances of flooding due to hydraulic overloading of the sewerage system.
Drainage area studies are the main means of understanding sewer flooding due to hydraulic overloading of the sewerage system. Scottish Water invested approximately £22 million by 2006 on these studies and has planned to spend £6 million on maintaining these studies and developing new studies where required. It is also planned to invest around £46.5 million by 2010 to resolve sewer-flooding problems.
Additional benefits in relation to flooding will also be achieved through other sewer network investment.
Overland flooding, caused by the build up of water on land following heavy rainfall or by a high water table causing ponding of standing water in low lying areas, is not directly related to flow in watercourses and is the responsibility of the land owner concerned.
Civil Contingencies Act and Preparing Scotland
The Civil Contingencies Act 2004 established a new legislative framework for civil protection in the UK. The Contingency Planning (Scotland) Regulations 2005 describe how the provisions of the Act are to be implemented and place clear roles and responsibilities on those organisations with a part to play in preparing for response to emergencies.
The Preparing Scotland guidance http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/179372/0051013.pdf was developed in response to the Civil Contingencies Act and provides a framework for civil protection within the contingency plans of the emergency services, local authorities, health services, government departments and other statutory, commercial and voluntary organisations at local, Scottish and UK level can be prepared.
Strategic Co-ordinating Groups (SCG’s) are established in each of the 8 police force areas in Scotland. All Category 1 and 2 responders with functions in that area are members of the SCG. This will include, amongst others, the Local Authority, Health Boards, Police, Fire, Ambulance and national organisations such as SEPA and Utilities providers. All these organisations work together under an integrated emergency management approach to deal with emergency planning and response within their area which would of course include extreme weather and flooding events. Emergencies are dealt with at the local level by the Strategic Co-ordinating Group and, when appropriate, SCGs liaise with the Scottish Government.
Through the development of Community Risk Registers (CRR) each SCG area will have identified the risk of both hazards and threats in their area (this will include flooding events). The CRR illustrates the capability available to deal with risks what risk treatment may need carried out. The CRR serves as a means for ensuring a common approach to emergency arrangements, plans and procedures.