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Flood defences receive £5.2 billion in “welcome boost” for UK

Posted by: Melonie Debenham
12/03/2020
Industry News

Flood defences receive £5.2 billion in “welcome boost” for UK

Industry groups have welcomed a £5.2bn cash injection for flood defences, announced in yesterday’s Budget.

Chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak confirmed rumours and promised “record funding of £5.2bn for flood defences,” a 100% increase on the current funding. He said the programme will include a fund of £120 million to repair all the damages sustained in February, as storms Ciara, Dennis and Jorge devastated much of the country.

The flood defences fund came as part of a £640 billion infrastructure pledge, which included investment into road, rail, communications, hospitals, schools and power networks.

National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) chair Sir John Armitt said he welcomed the flood protection funding but stressed the need to safeguard the country from further damage.

“We welcome the additional funding for boosting flood protection, though we have repeatedly argued for this to be complemented by the introduction of a national flood resilience standard,” he said. “These new commitments, among others, are important ingredients and we look forward to seeing the whole recipe in the National Infrastructure Strategy later this spring.”

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Sunak further announced an additional £200 million for a “plant-based resilience programme”, which will go to 25 local authorities to “build flood resistance”. Local authorities in northern England, the Midlands and southern regions will reportedly benefit from the fund after a selection process based on a range of criteria, including the frequency of flood damage.

The Environment Agency (EA) estimates the funding increase will reduce national flood risk by up to 11% by 2027.

Mott MacDonald managing director Cathy Travers said, “Increased investment in flood risk management will be welcomed across the country, none more so than in those communities who are continually impacted by climatic weather events.

“Annual flood damage costs are already in the region of £1.1 billion and could rise to as much as £27 billion by 2080,” she added. “This means there is limited time to safeguard hundreds and thousands of homes, so we must start taking bold action now.”

Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) chief executive Hannah Vickers said: “The heavily trailed £5.2 billion for flooding, with a separate fund to help those who have been immediately affected, is welcome”.

“We hope that the National Infrastructure Strategy will provide further definitions of the standard of protection this investment offers to the country,” she added. “This is key to providing a sustainable and reassuring long term position for those at risk of flooding and the insurance industry who continue to support them.’’

In South Yorkshire, multiple organisations responded to the climate and nature emergency with the first batch of planting of what will be 38,000 trees to better protect homes and businesses across the region from flooding.

The November 2019 floods generated huge support to further develop a catchment-based approach to managing the risk of flooding at a landscape scale along the River Don.

By investing in nature-based solutions like tree planting, peat restoration and wetland creation, it is possible to help slow the flow of water, reducing flood risk downstream in a way that complements more traditional engineering such as flood defence walls and embankments.

These measures also naturally absorb carbon from the atmosphere, playing an important role in the region reaching net zero emissions, and will contribute to the vision of a Northern Forest across South Yorkshire.

By coming together for the launch of the initiative, partners across the region demonstrated their shared ambitions for collaboration across the catchment, and in doing so, rising to the challenges of the climate and nature emergencies.

Councillors and senior staff from organisations across the region including Environment Agency, Sheffield, Doncaster, Barnsley and Rotherham Councils, Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, Don Catchment Rivers Trust, Sheffield City Region, the Woodland Trust, Forestry Commission and Moors for the Future were in attendance for the event at Brooks Bank Farm, near Underbank Reservoir, Stocksbridge.

The farm is a 45 acre Yorkshire Water holding at the headwaters of the River Don. The land is coming out of agricultural tenancy and being managed by Yorkshire Water, supported by Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust and the Woodland Trust, to deliver wider environmental outcomes to complement and support their one million trees planted target as part of the Northern Forest initiative.

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This work supports the wider River Don catchment natural flood management programme which is in its early stages being led in partnership by the Environment Agency and Sheffield City Council to slow and store flood waters using nature-based solutions like tree planting and peat restoration to better protect homes and businesses.

Helen Batt, Environment and Business Manager at the Environment Agency said:

“The commitment of multiple agencies to work together to reduce and mitigate flood risk, is a powerful component of South Yorkshire’s response to the Climate Emergency. No one organisation can do it alone and a collaborative, partnership approach is essential in restoring nature at scale, reducing emissions and responding to the climate emergency.

“There has been some fantastic work delivered in partnership across the River Don catchment over the years to help slow the flow of floodwaters using nature-based solutions. But to achieve the ambition we all have for South Yorkshire in the face of the climate emergency, a scaled-up approach is essential. Our collective ambition is to plant millions of trees, and create or restore hundreds of hectares of wetland and peatland habitat across the Don Catchment to help deliver a region resilient to climate change.” 

Full stories here & here.

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