Friday, February 15, 2008

New Scottish flooding defence plans are set to go back to nature

The Scotsman: Scotland is set to adopt a radical new approach to the prevention of flooding, with wetlands and woods created instead of concrete walls. Mike Russell, the environment minister, yesterday launched a consultation process on the Flooding Bill, which will replace outdated 1960s legislation. While "hard-engineering" schemes such as walls will remain part of the measures taken to keep water out, the new Bill is likely to see the introduction of a "river catchment" approach.

This would include the planting of woods to slow the run-off of water during heavy rain and the restoration of natural flood plains and wetlands away from towns and cities. Last night, environmental groups expressed their "delight" at the proposals, although there was some concern that money for flood defences – which is no longer ring-fenced – might be spent in other areas, such as education or housing, by councils.

Mr Russell, launching the consultation during a visit to a flood-prevention scheme in Galston, East Ayrshire, said: "Climate change has seen flooding become an increasingly regular threat to communities around Scotland, and the outdated 1960s legislation we have at present is no longer fit to tackle this growing danger. "The destruction flooding can cause is traumatic in terms of loss of property and devastating for those homes and businesses directly affected."

Speaking at Galston, which was hit by major floods in 1999, Mr Russell added: "We aim to ensure that a modern and sustainable approach is in place across Scotland. This will help to simplify and speed up flood-protection measures. The proposals will help deliver flood risk management for the 21st century, to better protect vulnerable communities from the increased risk of flooding."

Ministers will now seek the views of the public, industry experts and local authorities in a study of the country's flood management and to help inform the forthcoming legislation. Mike Donaghy, WWF Scotland's freshwater policy officer and a leading expert on flood prevention, said: "We welcome the approach taken in this consultation – we're really delighted it's taken this form. The Scottish Government has taken on board the advice of WWF and others that we must adopt a more flexible approach to flood risk management. We are glad to see the government moving away from a reliance on expensive hard- engineering methods….

Scottish counties flood damage, 2007

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