How to avoid flood damage

Depending on your location it may not be always possible to avoid flood damage, but it is essential to understand the risk and potentially mitigate.

The situation regarding flooding is not as black and white as the Environment Agency often presents it. Their maps are limited to only some of the flood risks associated with new or existing developments. The flood maps relate to land rather than specific buildings with specific floor heights.

For the public, it is not flooding generally which is of concern. Some flooding is both natural and can be beneficial where it occurs on traditional flood plains in a planned way.

Surveys have shown that the public’s concerns are:

  • Damage to a property, building or contents
  • Safety concern (not putting on some welly boots, but a real risk of drowning)
  • Unnecessary disruption to free movement (such as a flooded train line)
  • Pollution or other environmental failure, such as oil leaks, treatment works failure, loss of water etc.
  • Loss of key infrastructure such as water and electricity.

The problem is that, as in the 2014 floods, once effective flood controls fail the result many of the above elements all at the same time. Similar to fire, it is far more cost effective to control flooding with planned engineering works and schemes in the first place, than lose control. Flooding is not a new or unforeseen event. It is entirely practical to identify the risks and mitigate them.

There are many examples of where the “emergency flood works” response across Oxfordshire in 2014 was incomplete or in the wrong location. Often with a line of defence for Council properties and not private properties on the same street, letting the water flow round and entirely the defeat the purpose. Much of the work was political, to be seen “doing something” rather than solutions based on hydraulics.

Here are some examples of flooding in Oxfordshire during 2014:

Flood walkwayThis village on the side of the River Thames often experiences natural flooding.

The road acts as a flood overflow channel during peak floods. It would be possible to place channels under the road and raise it up such to maintain vehicle movements without having a considerable effect on flood flows.

Traditionally a greater priority has been given to pedestrian rather than vehicle movements. This type of raised walkway has been used for thousands of years to maintain reasonably safe access during such events. The actual materials used in the current construction are fairly modern.

This solution flood mitigation solution addresses the element 2.


House nearly flooding



This traditional house is located near a river channel. Much of the garden has flooded, but safe and dry walking access is maintained. It would appear the house has flood protection around it also. It is a good example of how just because a house is within a EA flood plain, it does not as such relate to a high flood risk in relation to the key public concerns (as listed above).

Caravan flooding

Some developments such as static homes are located in inappropriate locations and are without effective protection.

Clearly this can present many of the issues set out above.

Caravan Flooding Cliften Hamden








How can I get the Environment Agency to reduce flooding in my area?

You could speak to the EA and see what plans, if any, they have to reduce flooding in your area.

Unfortunately the EA have an increasingly inefficient framework procurement process for flood works. By the direct use of longer and larger frameworks for the design and construction of flood mitigation works, it restricts free and fair competition in the civil engineering market. This means the majority of work goes only a handful of often expensive multinationals. Innovation is reduced and overhead costs are increased.

How can my local community reduce flooding, if the EA can’t / won’t help?

The good news is the Government is encouraging the public to take a more active role in determining their own future. Communities or residents can employ independent civil engineering consultants who can provide specific flood risk assessment advice to single houses or entire villages. These consultants can work with developers or other private sources of funding to enable schemes which the EA is not willing to support.