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The 60 Second Interview with Stephanie Kerr

Steph is part of our consultancy team, having joined Argyll in 2017. Steph previously worked at Capita – Property and Infrastructure, where she specialised in Flood Risk Assessments and gained a detailed understanding of flood data analysis and GIS (Geographic Information Systems). Steph’s academic studies include a BSc Hons in Geography and Natural Hazard Management from the University of Chester. Steph’s focus at Argyll includes the development and evolution of our flood risk reports and services, and the management and delivery of bespoke consultancy projects. You may have seen her training videos on the Landmark Academy where she discusses flood risk due diligence, flood risk assessments and agricultural issues to consider in conveyancing.

  • What made you want to go into flood risk consultancy?

I grew up on a farm right next to one of the UK’s major floodplains, the Humber estuary, and I can remember the 2000 and 2007 floods and the devastation they caused all the way from York to Hull, through both farms and the towns. I later wrote my dissertation on Flood Risk Perceptions of the Humber Estuary, as even then as I was writing it the 2014/15 floods were wreaking havoc across the country. It’s always fascinated me when it comes to peoples reactions to flooding each time a flood event happens, despite flooding becoming increasingly more frequent, peoples memories seem to forget. So that’s why I knew I wanted to go into flood risk consultancy, to help people better understand the risks they are up against and what they can do to help themselves and their communities, as well as educate them on flood risk.

  • The government want to build 300,000 houses a year until mid 2020s, are you seeing that more houses are being built on flood prone areas?

Yes is the short answer! Developers want the cheapest land possible to develop, and more often than not, that’s either right next to a river or on a flood plain. Local authorities also have targets to meet as you say, to ensure these new homes get built, so their hands can be tied sometimes when it comes to what land there is left available to develop, without encroaching onto greenfield space. All major towns and cities across the UK are either built on or next to large rivers or coasts, so more needs to be done to ensure that these homes, must they be built on floodplains, are flood resilient to future floods, especially when considering climate change.

  • What are the main challenges when undertaking a flood risk assessment (FRA)?

The main issue I come across when completing an FRA is that flood risk has been thought about too late in the planning process. Clients in the past have come to us with bad feedback from planning which consequently has resulted in a rejected application because they did not consider flood risk from the starting concept. This then obviously causes problems later down the line because detailed plans have been drawn up and made that then need changing, and it can be quite costly and time consuming for the client to fix.

  • How do you see climate change affecting flood risk and are there any measures being implemented or planned to reduce its impact?

I think like most environmental consultants in our industry I see that the frequency of flooding, and the amount of FRA requests we get, is slowly increasing year on year, and there’s no doubt that’s due to changes in the weather, as well as people’s perceptions on flood risk. This also means that with increased storm frequencies, people in flood prone areas will need to adapt sooner than they think.

The EA is always looking to increase funding to improve defences and trial new plans as I recently found out at the Flood Risk & Defence Development Conference held by the Built Environment Network on January 19th 2021. Julie Foley, Director of Flood Risk Strategy & National Adaptation at the EA spoke about a new approach to resilience, mainstreaming property flood resilience and building back better to reduce flood damages and enable faster recovery.

As well as this she said the EA are working closely with farmers, land owners, the National Farmers Union and the Country Land & business Association, to promote climate resilient places. This includes nature-based solutions that take a catchment led approach – improving resilience to both floods and droughts. Using farmland as an example, farmers under future schemes could allow their fields to flood seasonally or in times before predicted flood events, and as part of the new Environmental Land Management plan, the government would pay them compensation, as means for providing a “Public Good” This is currently being trailed in various locations across the country, and I hope we will see some positive results for both the land owners and the general public.