Civil engineers warning on flooding cuts

The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) has warned of the impact of reduced public funding for flooding defences.

Last week's spending review will see DEFRA reduce its resource spending by 29% and capital spending by 34%, with £2 billion allocated to coastal and flood defences over the four year review period, 2011 to 2015.

However this is less than the £2.15 billion commitment made in the previous three year period, 2008-2011.

The reduction of £150 million in the budget over the next four years could cost the public around £4.8 billion in the future, say the ICE. They say they base this estimate on the Environment Agency's assertion that every pound spent on flood defences saves eight in the future in terms of reduced damage.

The ICE say that flooding is one of the biggest challenges the UK faces and funding from the government needs to address this threat. They believe the spending cuts are likely to have the result that current investment in dealing with sewer flooding may not be maintained in water company's spending plans.

The Institution of Civil Engineers, vice president international, David Balmforth, who leads the (ICE) work on flooding said: "While we welcome the Government's recognition of the importance of maintaining the UK's investment in flood risk management, we would have liked to see the level of funding more adequately reflect historical investment and address the implementation of the Floods and Water Management Act.

"With public funding decreasing in real terms, delivering better value from our investment in managing flood risk will be crucial.

"Funding mechanisms and regulation must work to enable progress rather than hinder it, and improved collaboration between the many responsible bodies will be essential."

The ICE maintains that to deal with the increased risk of rising sea levels and other effects of climate change, additional measures will need to be considered, such as coastal realignment and building out into the water.

In a report earlier this year, Rising Sea Levels: Attack, Retreat, Defend, the ICE laid out possible scenarios of how these measures could work in the UK. Their message to the government was that strong political leadership and long term national and local strategies would be crucial, while new funding mechanisms and multi-functional flood defence infrastructures need to be developed. Alison Brown



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