Flood risk for London is 'not being taken seriously enough'

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The Independent Online

The risk of major flooding in London is not being taken "seriously enough" according to a report.

The London Assembly has warned that the threat of natural disaster, and its disastrous consequences as seen last month in New Orleans, should not be ignored.

As East London and the Thames Gateway flood plain continues to be developed, confusion over who should maintain defence structures leaves the Thames Estuary, home to 1.25 million people and almost half a million houses, prone to flooding.

Chairman of the committee Darren Johnson said: "In New Orleans, the world has had a tragic reminder of the threat from natural disaster and the impact flooding can have. It is, therefore, vital that lessons are learned and action taken immediately to streamline responsibilities for flood defences and planning control in the Thames Gateway.

"Much of the development area is on the flood plain, which will put London at greater risk."

According to the committee, 5 per cent of East London's defences are in a poor condition, and the situation could be worse towards the coast.

The report also claims that private landowners are responsible for maintaining many of the city's 2,400 defence structures - yet in some cases identifying who owns the land is impossible.

Mr Johnson worries the situation will only get worse: "We're extremely concerned about development plans for East London, and the building of thousands of new homes in Thames Gateway. These plans are simply not taking the flood risk issue seriously enough."

The Government's Environment Agency welcomed the "valuable contribution" of the report in highlighting the risk. Thames Estuary programme executive David Wardle said: "We are pleased that the London Assembly agrees that the very real risk of flooding to which the capital is exposed cannot be ignored.

"The disastrous impact of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans reminds us all that the consequences of complacency can be tragic.

"But Londoners can be reassured that their city's flood defences are in good shape, offer a high level of protection and will benefit from an investment of some £300m during the next 15 years.

A spokesman for the Environment Agency added that all defence structures were inspected every six months, and the organisation had the power to carry out any required maintenance.

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