A flooding resilience expert from Kingston University (KU) has slammed 'knee jerk' responses to flooding in the UK.

Dr Tim Harries, senior research fellow at Kingston Business School specialising in flood resilience among householders and small businesses, spoke out after Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson chaired a meeting of the government's 'Cobra' emergency committee several days after severe flooding hit parts of Northern England recently.

Dr Harris said that there was little effective way to limit flood damage in the short term, and highlighted the use of sandbags in particular.

"There’s not much that can be done to limit flood damage at short notice. Sandbags are a bit of a sop.

"People want them because they’re desperate to do something constructive, so they are useful at an emotional level because getting them means people can take some action," Dr Harries said.

"Yet it can mean flood responses are driven by emotional factors – because people want sandbags, they put pressure on the local authority to provide them.

"This can lead to a knee jerk response to the sandbag call, with councils spending money on providing them even though their effectiveness is limited," he added.

One central issue the Kingstonian academic that could instead be addressed is that of resilience.

According to Dr Harris, a more effective way to limit the damage caused by flooding is to better prepare properties impacted by flooding for any future scenarios.

"One of the most effective things to do after a flood, for example, would be to make your house or business more resilient when you repair or rebuild it.

"However, at the moment that rarely happens – for a complex number of reasons that include commercial drivers within the insurance industry and technical uncertainty.

"Even if a householder or business owner accepts that the risk of flooding is real, the commercial infrastructure is not really there yet for them to do anything about it," he said.

Dr Harries concluded that a better approach might be for the government to promote better flood preparedness in communities as "a normal part of life".

"What politicians need to be doing is trying to get people to accept the limitations of government and encourage a shift in mindset and acceptance that floods and flood preparedness are a normal part of life.

"But of course, no government wants to do that," he said.