In a flurry of press releases sent out yesterday 02 December 2014, the UK Environment Agency announced a list of flood defence projects for England and Wales as part of an investment programme by the UK government.
The aim of the flood defence projects is to protect over 300,000 properties, reduce flood risk by 5% and save the economy £2.7 billion by 2021. The government say that the lifetime benefits of this investment will be even higher at over £30 billion.
There are 1,400 projects within the programme. New schemes and projects may also be added as the programme progresses.
The major projects include:
£80 million for the Humber Estuary
Over £17 million for Tonbridge, Yalding and the surrounding communities
£196 million for the Thames Estuary programme
£73 million for the Boston Barrier/Barrage
£42 million for the Oxford Western Conveyance
£47 million for the Rossall Coastal Defence Improvement
After the ravages of last winter’s floods in Somerset, the government said it will commit to spend £15.5 million in the county on flood defences over the next 6 years benefitting 7,000 properties, including £4.2 million on the Somerset Levels and Moors.
The investment programme was published alongside a new long term study from the Environment Agency, which shows that the planned investment will reduce overall flood and coastal erosion risk in England. A full list of the planned flood defence projects can be found on this page. An interactive Google Map of all the projects can be seen here.
Announcement Receives a Cautious Welcome
Despite the grand unveiling, the announcement received a cautious welcome from many observers in the UK.
There was concern that the new projects would divert money needed for existing flood defences. The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) told the BBC that maintenance of existing defences was being neglected.
Local authorities were also cautious about the new announcement. Funding from central government only partially covers the costs of the flood defence projects. Private investment, local authorities and other contributors through the “partnership funding programme” will have to provide the remainder (possibly a total of £600 million). For example, the £42 million government contribution for the Oxford Western Conveyance still leaves the project needing a further £80 million.
Surrey County Council leader David Hodge told the BBC that giving £196m to the Thames Estuary would leave the seven local authorities in the area searching for a further £120m for the flood defence projects needed. Surrey suffered during the 2013 to 2014 winter floods, when 1,600 homes were flooded. Referring to the sum allocated by the government, he added:
“That, I’m afraid to say, will not help us.”
Maria Eagle MP, Labour’s shadow environment secretary, wrote in the Guardian that the £2.3bn is not new money, instead it is another re-announcement of capital funding that was confirmed a year ago. She went on to say:
There are some heroic assumptions underlying these plans. The government has assumed it can raise £600m of the £2.3bn from its ‘partnership funding programme’, four times more than at present. The programme includes contributions from both the public and private sectors. Yet this has been a disaster.