Reports show need for more flood spending

Contractors have welcomed two new Environment Agency reports, which show that annual spend on building and maintaining flood defences must double to £1B a year by 2035 to meet the increased risk of coastal erosion and flooding.

The EA said that spending on asset maintenance and construction must rise from the £570M allocated for 2010/11 to around £1.04B by 2035 - an increase in asset construction and maintenance spending of £20M per year, with a total spend of £20B over 25 years.

Matthew Nott, managing director at Black & Veatch, UK government and industry, said: "There will be good opportunities for those contractors with the prerequisite skills, able to work collaboratively, and committed to finding new ways to deliver more for less. The Environment Agency is to be commended for its long term investment strategy; it provides an evidence-based plan for increasing investment in flood risk management across England."

Publication of the agency's spending demands coincides with its revised climate change forecasts and will be a key weapon as it lobbies for future funding. Its current funding settlement runs until March 2011 and future government spending in the sector is expected to decrease.

Robert Runcie, EA director of flood and coastal risk, said: "There is a debate to be had, and that is what we'll enter into now. Should finances come from the Exchequer or should there be some contribution from the beneficiaries?"

Most of the EA's budget is spent dealing with flood risk from rivers and the coast. Nott said: "Funding will come from a number of sources. The Environment Agency will set out what it can afford using central government funds. Over the next few years the tough economic conditions may well constrain what government can afford. Additional local funding is anticipated from county councils, unitary authorities, and the private sector."

He said private finance is likely to have a bigger part to play. "Environment Agency research shows that about two thirds of the benefits of flood risk management assets accrue to private beneficiaries, such as homeowners and businesses."

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