‘Develop London with climate change in mind or suffer more flooding on Tube’

Flooding in Stratford  (Twitter/R0bday)
Flooding in Stratford (Twitter/R0bday)

Concreting over London will cause further flooding of the Tube, the chief executive of the Environment Agency warned on Tuesday.

Sir James Bevan said that unless developments were designed with climate change in mind, the capital’s transport network would suffer during the increasingly heavy rainfall.

Basement flats were also particularly vulnerable to regular flooding in a warmer, wetter climate, Sir James said.

Parks should be built to act as “giant sponges” or grass planted on roofs “to allow rainwater to drain away gradually”, he said in a speech at Imperial College London.

He added: “As well as efforts to create better access to green space, our cities would have embedded sustainable drainage which increases the ability of our cities and their drainage systems to absorb large amounts of water when it rains.”

Flooding was seen across the capital in November (Ben Cawthra/LNP)
Flooding was seen across the capital in November (Ben Cawthra/LNP)

London’s transport network has been hit by flash flooding several times in the past few years.

Nine stations were closed in July 2021 due to heavy rain. Videos showed torrents of water submerging ticket barriers at Covent Garden and Pudding Mill DLR in Stratford.

In August last year sections of Victoria station along with Kentish Town and Holland Park Tube were shut due to a downpour.

The wet weather also impacted major roads, including Upper Street, Farringdon Road and Hyde Park Corner.

Dozens of homes were also flooded in east London when drains were unable to cope with the deluge of water.

While the city is no longer enveloped in the thick smog it saw during the 20th century, and wildlife has returned to the Thames in recent years after being declared “biologically dead” in the Fifties, Sir James argued there was still much that needed doing to make it resilient to climate change.

He pointed to developments such as the Olympic Park as “the urban environments of the future”.

“As our cities grow and our current drains reach full capacity, as we concrete over areas that used to act as natural drains, and as climate change brings us bigger and more violent rainfall, these schemes can make all the difference between basements, underpasses, city centres and Tube lines that are flooded and dangerous, and a city that just shrugs its shoulders, puts up its umbrellas, and keeps going.”

It comes as Mayor Sadiq Khan issued a high air pollution alert across London for today, with schools notified about the toxic air and signs displayed across TfL.

The capital has experienced moderate air pollution since Saturday as the cold and foggy conditions mean vehicle emissions disperse more slowly.

Mr Khan said people needed “to be careful” in the coming days to help the pollution dissipate.

The Evening Standard has backed “Ella’s Law”, a bill that will enshrine the human right to clean air in law.

The Clean Air (Human Rights) Bill is named after Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, the first person in the UK to have air pollution listed as a cause of death.

Today would have been her 19th birthday.