Environment Agency boss seeks local flood decisions

Flood warnings have been issued today by The Environment Agency.
Flood warnings have been issued today by The Environment Agency.
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The new boss of the Environment Agency has pledged to work with communities amid calls for greater co-operation between public bodies and better communication with local people.

Sir James Bevan only took up his post as chief executive in November and has already had to cope with major floods in northern England and southern Scotland.

But, during Friday’s floods summit in Downham Market, he said: “A big part of my agenda is to make sure you’re making the decisions, rather than forcing things on you that you don’t think are right.”

And environment secretary Elizabeth Truss said there would be a bigger role for local groups in the future.

She said: “The critical question is how can we enable the internal drainage boards to do more of this work. The reality is that’s how it’s going to happen.”

But the meeting also heard pleas for work on flooding to be part of a much wider approach to managing water needs.

Other delegates called for a wider scope of defence work to be carried out across county boundaries.

And David Collinson, of Norfolk County Council, said all parties needed to work more closely together.

He said: “There’s an awful lot of organisations that have flood risk at the heart of their purpose and we don’t adequately work together.”

And Brian Long reminded delegates of the need to keep local communities informed.

He attended a Magdalen parish council meeting the previous evening where he was asked why the river had not been recently dredged.

Although officials said river bed conditions meant the work was not needed at present, Mr Long said that was the sort of message that was not getting through.

He said: “They need to know this and they’re not getting it filtered down.”