In data recently obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, Unearthed, Greenpeace UK’s investigative branch, has found that more than a thousand privately owned flood defenses in vulnerable parts of England were in poor condition last year.
Among the comprehensive data sets is information on how the Danish Environmental Protection Agency (EA) assessed privately maintained flood defenses throughout the capital for its audit in 2019/2020. It does so on a scale of one to five, where one is ‘very good’ and five is ‘very bad’. All data refer to what EA describes as ‘high-impact’ rankings. This means that the flood defenses protect areas “where the consequences for people and property” are high if a defense fails. So, like, there are proper things from real life to worry about for people if there is a bad storm and / or the long term effects of rising sea levels.
Unearthed kindly shared the London pieces of its data with Time Out, so we can reveal that more than a hundred of London’s privately owned flood defenses were rated as either “bad” or “very bad” by EA during its 2019/2020 report. With around 10 per cent of the country’s poorly rated flood protection in London, it’s a real cause for concern.
Thanks to the information we have provided, we have been able to look at where these less than adequate defenses are located in the city. Tower Hamlets have the worst rated defenses, with 16 of them ranked as ‘bad’ and another ‘very bad’. Next in line was Greenwich, with nine ‘bad’ defenses.
Although we do not know exactly which flood defenses are affected, the fact that Tower Hamlets includes Canary Wharf suggests that the outlook is worrying for the financial area of the Isle of Dogs. Other neighborhoods with more smaller than good defenses include Newham, Barking & Dagenham and The Child, who all have seven or more ‘bad’ defenses in total. The latter two, along with Haringey and Hillingdon, each have three ‘very bad’ flood defenses, the highest number of ‘very bad’ defenses in any London borough. A total of 26 areas in London were added to the list.
Why we turn on the ‘private’ aspect of these defenses, you may be wondering. Well, that’s because it means the owner can not be forced to repair. The Guardian spoke with James Mead, a flood and water chief in Sheffield City Council, in their article on the Unearthed report. He said that when it comes to contacting private owners, ‘the only thing we can do is ask nicely’.
The Danish Environmental Protection Agency can carry out emergency repairs to these private flood defenses where necessary, but the cost of repairing these pieces of infrastructure can easily hit six figures. While the government has announced £ 5.2 billion over the next six years to help tackle floods and coastal erosion across the UK, Unearthed points out that private companies that own flood defenses will not be eligible for any of these money. So we have to trust that they are repairing their defenses out of their own pocket.
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