More than 300,000 homes in England are now better protected from the effects of climate change compared with 2015, the UK’s Environment Agency announced on 24 March 2021.
Exceeding its target in delivering the government’s £2.6 billion investment in flood and coastal defence schemes since 2015, the Environment Agency and partners have completed more than 700 projects to better protect more than 300,000 homes, nearly 600,000 acres of agricultural land, thousands of businesses and major pieces of infrastructure.
The milestone was reached with the completion of the Hull: Humber Frontages scheme, a £42 million project which will better protect the city of Hull from the devastation of tidal surges which caused flooding to hundreds of properties in 2013.
The delivery of the nation’s new defences, which has continued through lockdown with Covid-secure working arrangements, will not only help to save the economy more than £28 billion in avoided damages over the lifetime of defence assets, but also provide reassurance and peace of mind for communities and encourage economic growth.
The successful delivery of the programme comes ahead of the start of the record £5.2 billion investment in 2,000 new flood and coastal defences between 2021 and 2027.
Emma Howard Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency, said, “The success of this programme is measured in numbers – 700 projects, 300,000 homes, nearly 600,000 acres of agricultural land, thousands of businesses and major pieces of infrastructure, on time and within budget. But the sense of security these protections bring to people, and the benefits to nature, can’t easily be demonstrated on a spreadsheet.”
Recently completed flood protection schemes in England also include the £67 million Ipswich Barrier in Suffolk, which will protect 1,600 homes and 400 businesses from flooding and the impacts of climate change over the course of the next century.
The Boston Barrier gate is now fully ready and working, giving an enhanced level of flood protection to over 13,000 homes and businesses in the town. As the centrepiece of the flood scheme, the barrier gate can be raised in just 20 minutes, responding quickly to threats of North Sea tidal surges. With the whole of the £100 million Environment Agency scheme now two-thirds complete, the project will provide Boston with one of the best standards of flood defence outside of London. Once the scheme is fully completed in 2022, flood risk to over 14,000 homes and 800 businesses will be greatly reduced and allow for the effects of climate change for the next 100 years.
Flood defence schemes have also involved natural flood management, for example at Smithills near Bolton, where log dams and tree planting help to store water in upland areas in order to reduce flood risk for communities in Bolton downstream. The dams help to store the equivalent of four Olympic swimming pools’ worth of water upstream. Around 38,000 native broadleaf deciduous trees have also planted to intercept surface water, create habitat for the local wildlife populations, and help with carbon sequestration, with more to come.
Work is already under way on the delivery of some of the 2,000 new flood and coastal defences that will better protect a further 336,000 properties from flooding and coastal erosion by 2027, which will also see the implementation of the Environment Agency’s Flood and Coastal Risk Management Strategy.