Protecting the community from the risk and impact of flooding is at the heart of European Floods Directive 2007/60/EC on the Assessment and Management of Flood Risks or ‘Floods Directive’. This Directive, introduced in October 2007, provided a new approach to managing flood risk on a catchment-wide scale. In November 2009, the Directive was transposed to Northern Ireland law through The Water Environment (Floods Directive) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2009.
The Directive Timeline is geared to a rolling cycle so its 3 key stages must be repeated on a cyclical basis (every 6 years) to ensure that flood risk is managed effectively and that it takes account of new information and changes in risk.
Distinct preparatory stages
Following the introduction of the Directive into NI law, the Directive required 3 distinct preparatory stages (the dates below are applicable to the 1st Cycle):-
1. Preliminary Flood Risk Assessment
Article 4 of the Directive required that each EU Member State undertook a Preliminary Flood Risk Assessment (PFRA) for their respective territories by 22 December 2011. The PFRA for Northern Ireland (NI) can be accessed via this link:-
In the PFRA, we identified areas in NI which have the most significant flood risk, known as Significant Flood Risk Areas (SFRAs). These areas have been the focus for more detailed mapping and planning in the next two stages.
2. Flood Hazard and Risk Mapping
Article 6 of the Directive required that each Member State should prepare Flood Hazard and Flood Risk Maps for significant flood risk areas by December 2013. These have been prepared for NI and can be accessed via this link:-
3. Flood Risk Management Planning
Article 7 of the Directive required each Member State to prepare Flood Risk Management Plans (FRMPs) by December 2015. The Flood Risk Management Plans highlight the flood hazards and risks in the most Significant Flood Risk Areas in NI from flooding from rivers, the sea, surface water and reservoirs. They identify the objectives and measures that will be undertaken to address flooding and they set out how the relevant authorities will work together with communities to reduce the flood risks. The FRMPs for NI can be accessed via this link:-
The publication of the Flood Risk Management Plans marked the start of the implementation phase of the first cycle of Planning.
Floods Directive processes are cyclical and Article 14 requires reviews of each stage to be carried out on a rolling 6 year cycle. The 2nd Planning cycle requires a review of the PFRA by December 2018, Flood Hazard and Flood Risk Maps to be updated by December 2019, leading to a 2nd generation of Flood Risk Management Plans by December 2021. The cycle is then to be repeated every 6 years to ensure that Planning and work to manage Flood Risks actively continues. Publications will be updated or renewed as the cyclical stages are completed.
European Floods Directive - the legislation
Floods Directive (European legislation)
Floods Directive (NI legislation)
- The Water Environment (Floods Directive) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2009 (legislation.gov.uk)
Other legislation and polices relevant to flood risk
Water Framework Directive (NI legislation)
The EU Water Framework Directive is a sister directive being delivered by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (part of DAERA). The Directive works to protect and restore clean water across Europe and ensure its long-term sustainable use. This Directive has been transposed to NI law and can be accessed via this link:-
- The Water Environment (Water Framework Directive) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2003 (legislation.gov.uk)
Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive (EU legislation)
The Floods Directive legislation was subject to a Strategic Environmental Assessment. This means that we undertook appropriate environmental considerations in the Flood Risk Management Planning process. This Directive has been transposed to NI regulation and can be accessed via this link:-
- The Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programmes Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2004 (legislation.gov.uk)
Planning Policies SPPS and Planning Policy Statement 15 (PPS 15)
Department for Infrastructure Planning under the Strategic Planning Policy Statement (SPPS) along with PPS 15 aims to prevent new development in areas that may be at risk from flooding or where development may increase the risk of flooding elsewhere. In relation to land use planning, these policies also summarise the drainage and flood regulation roles and responsibilities of DfI Rivers, DfI Roads and Northern Ireland Water. These policies can be accessed via these links:-