FLOOD AND COAST 2017 – CAPTURING THE CONTENT
The first day’s theme focussed on leadership in FCRM, with examples of leadership and new initiatives from different parts of the FCRM community. We heard from council partners, infrastructure providers, business, agriculture and local communities.
John Curtin, Executive Director of Flood and Coastal Risk Management at the Environment Agency, set the tone for the day. He shared his description of the Flood and Coastal Risk Management Community as a mosaic of partners coming together to form a whole. The plenary speakers kicked off a great day and our thanks to:
- Emma Howard Boyd - Chair, Environment Agency who talked about leadership that ensures good partnerships deliver more than any one body can in isolation;
- Jason Gooding – Chief Executive, Carlisle City Council who shared his experience of leading Carlisle City Council’s response to the flooding caused by Storm Desmond and the subsequent recovery across the city;
- Minette Batters – Deputy President, National Farmers Union who explained her role in leading the 47,000 strong farming community working in partnership to mitigate risk;
- Phiala Mehring – Integrated Flood Risk Campaigner who brought home the importance of understanding and hearing the voice of the community; and
- Peter Simpson – Chief Executive, Anglian Water on the role that water companies can play in helping to bring together multiple partners across the breadth of water management.
- These messages were echoed in the first conference sessions with strong themes around:
- The importance of flood risk information being communicated in a way that is not only understood and trusted by recipients, but also inspires people to take action
- Strong relationships among professional bodies and partners on a continuing basis rather than just when there’s a problem;
- How important it is to take the time to work with communities and build trust
- The benefits that can be delivered through innovation but the need for them to be underpinned by a cultural shift in leadership toward longer-term more sustainable solutions.
Unsurprisingly there were similar messages in the free-to-attend Seminar Live sessions. We first heard from community flood groups about how we can work together to manage local flood risk and the very real frustrations when this doesn't happen. Later we heard about innovations in data, products and technology. These sessions proved extremely popular, as did the exhibition area. In our final plenary session we looked up and out - up beyond flood and coastal risk to focus on the opportunities for integrated water management, and out to other countries to learn from international partners.
Day 2’s theme was the importance of flood risk management to local growth. The sessions highlighted the range of local authority led accountabilities on which flood risk touches.
Toby Willison, Executive Director of Operations at the Environment Agency, introduced the day talking about the pivotal part that local authorities play in managing flood and coastal risk. One of the key themes from the previous day, partnership, came out at that early stage and was a strong continuing message throughout the day.
Once again the plenary speakers set the tone for further discussion and our thanks to:
- Richard Blyth – Head of Policy & Practice for the Royal Town Planning Institute who talked about the need for one conversation linking together national and local planning and multi-disciplinary issues such as water – not just flood risk, housing, infrastructure and economic growth.
- Graham Brogden – Director of Technical Claims, Aviva who praised the Property Flood Resilience Action Plan and emphasised the importance of wider involvement so that flood resilience in the future becomes the norm and the devastating effects of flooding on communities are reduced.
- Cllr Keith House – Leader of Eastleigh Borough Council & Deputy Chair of the Local Government Associations Economy, Environment, Housing & Transport Board who explained how partnership working and collective leadership is key in bringing together national and local partners across all borders, and in linking together public and private sector investment.
The conference sessions from day 2 covered that broad range of accountabilities plus much more.
A few highlights include:
- The life-transforming effect that property level protection can have when it allows residents to get back to normal in days rather than weeks or months.
- How strong partnerships are created and sustained through shared visions, shared resources and shared ownership. And the importance of creating these before they are really needed so that they can flex and adapt in times of pressure.
- Resilient cities and how they can thrive and grow through creating a sense of ‘place’ for communities. Plus how important it is to ensure climate change impacts are included in strategic plans to make them future-proof.
- The complexities of managing the continually evolving challenge of coastal squeeze and the need to let our plans reflect this.
- The multiple benefits offered by sustainable drainage systems, including those retrofitted such as green roofs and rainwater harvesting.
The exhibition was buzzing all day again as well with those partnership connections being formed and strengthened in real-time. There was an impressive range of skills, technology and innovation on display. In the Seminar Live theatre there was standing room only at the ‘in conversation with Emma Howard Boyd’ session which covered natural flood management, flood resilience and the importance of preparation to reduce the impact of flooding. We also heard how individuals & communities can work with local authorities to both partners’ benefit.
On the final day of the event, John Curtin, Executive Director of Flood and Coastal Risk Management at the Environment Agency, introduced the day reflecting that while there is more we need to achieve, we have a good foundation on which to build because integration is something we already do as a sector.
Once again our plenary speakers gave great food for thought that inspired much of the day’s discussion. We were delighted to hear from:
- Minister Therese Coffey MP who sent a message reiterating the importance of partnership working in flood and coastal risk management and the progress being made to improve national resilience. Looking forward, she spoke about moving towards more integrated water planning, supported by strong local partnerships and innovative funding solutions.
- Emma Fitzgerald, Managing Director of Severn Trent Water, who gave a fascinating insight into the innovative work that Severn Trent Water are doing to improve reduce flooding, support vulnerable communities and improve the resilience of water supply and treatment infrastructure.
- Bruce Keith, President of CIWEM, who discussed water management around the world, reflecting on global challenges of water shortages and flood risk, and the common solutions, including the use of sustainable drainage systems.
These messages were echoed in the conference sessions which covered a wide range of topics. On integration they included:
- Practical examples of natural flood management and the opportunities to realise multiple benefits for people and places by working in partnership.
- The lessons learned in recovery from flooding - including the role of modelling in informing decision making, and partnership working allowing different bodies to focus on the things they are best at.
- Ecosystem services and the importance of being able to take account of the value they provide to society in the decisions we make.
Two global sessions provided fascinating insights from international partners:
- The community, biodiversity and business enhancing benefits that SUDS and sympathetically designed urban flood defences can bring with lessons from Chinese Sponge Cities.
- Contrasting approaches to flood risk management in England and the USA but equally the similarities in the issues we need to address.
- The range of coastal resilience tools which have been developed through collaboration across Europe in the RISC-KIT project.
A final and well attended mentoring session took place on the Environment Agency’s stand in the exhibition hall, with Bruce Keith, Sarah Hendry and Steve Moore, Environment Agency, Executive Director for National Operations, with a range of delegates joining to discuss their careers and top tips from our speakers.
We closed the conference with a final session reflecting on the key themes and collective learning over the three days. Advisory Committee Chair, Clare Dinnis, highlighted recurring themes:
- Partnership – including a challenge to maintain and strengthen connections so they can flex and adapt when we really need them.
- Integration – not only across catchments but also across the range of local authority issues on which flooding touches such as health and wellbeing, community infrastructure resilience and of course spatial planning.
- Communication – doing this in a way that ensures the audience understands the message but also inspires them to take action because they can see the benefit it will have for them. Thank you to our sponsors and exhibitors for enabling this event to take place and to all who attended for a thoroughly inspiring three days.