As northern England and many parts of Scotland count the huge cost of recent flooding, our Soils and Water Technical Director, Richard Steel, asks if we need to give the way we design flood defences a fundamental rethink?

Climate change predictions suggest that the unprecedented wet weather we’ve already experienced this winter is destined to become a more common feature of the UK climate. Bringing major disruption to communities, transport infrastructure and local economies, the cost of flooding over recent weeks is already estimated to run into billions.

The traditional approach to flood defence has been to construct flood embankments that force river flows through narrow channels. Meanwhile, the functional flood plain on many UK rivers has been lost as parts of this land are given over to agriculture and commercial and retail development.