Three of Middlesex University’s own leading flood experts will help advise Government on research and development in relation to flood and coastal risk management in the aftermath of this winter’s devastating floods.
Sue Tapsell, Professor Edmund Penning-Rowsell and Dr Simon McCarthy from the Flood Hazard Research Centre (FHRC) have been appointed to sit on new Research & Development Thematic Advisory Groupsl set up by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Environment Agency.
The appointments come after a busy few months for the FHRC, with its expertise widely called upon by government and the media, as people across the United Kingdom dealt with the country’s wettest winter in 250 years.
This month, academics from the Centre also submitted evidence to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee’s inquiry into the winter floods.
Commenting on the extreme weather, Sue Tapsell said: ‘What was most unique about the flooding experienced over the winter of 2013 and 2014, and what can have a great impact on recovery – is the duration of the flooding.
‘The government must continue to invest in flood risk management as well as research to better understand the natural process of floods, their social and economic impact and how we can better manage future risk.’
Sue said this was not the first time governments had called upon the expertise of Middlesex University’s FHRC. She added: ‘Governments have invited us to advise them in the wake of previous floods as well – for example, following the floods of 2007, Edmund Penning-Rowsell and I served on the scientific advisory panel of the subsequent enquiry.’
For many years the FHRC has undertaken extensive research into the social impacts of floods on individuals and households, and on the costs of floods to the economy.
‘We are looking at the way in which individuals recover from flood losses. My colleague Sally Priest is examining the proposed changes to the future provision of flood insurance and how this reform may affect the number of people purchasing cover and their future ability to absorb flood losses.
‘We have also looked at the way the threat of flood is communicated. Scientists and the media often use unhelpful terms such as ‘one in a hundred year’ flood which doesn’t really mean a lot to people without expert knowledge. As such, the public and politicians often misinterpret its meaning. I would prefer to see the risk expressed as a percentage, representing how likely a flood event is for each and every year.’
Academics at the FHRC were some of the first to highlight social justice issues associated with spending on flood defences.
‘Flooding protection schemes were often built to protect wealthy areas where the economic losses from the flooding are greater and we were also among the first to carry out research on the intangible impacts of flooding, such as the stress and psychological damage they cause. We devised a methodology for DEFRA for applying a monetary value to this which has been widely used when assessing the benefits of building flood defence schemes.’
Following recent media coverage, the FHRC has received a number of expressions of interest in research collaboration.
This year will see academics from the FHRC continue to research subjects ranging from economic appraisal and governance arrangements for flood risk management, the communication of risk, coastal vulnerability, flood insurance and how to fairly allocate funding.
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