Flood defences need local funding

Future investment in flood defences will require greater contributions from communities and businesses, according to the chief executive of the Environment Agency (EA).

Speaking at the Defra/Environment Agency Flood & Coastal Risk Management conference in Telford in June, Paul Leinster said that local contributions to the funding of flood defences will have to play a greater role in reducing the risk of flood and coastal erosion.

EA spending on flood and coastal risk management is currently at record levels. However, other sources of funding will need to be found to protect communities from increasing risk of flooding and coastal erosion including from changes in climate in future.

Defra says that some communities have already adopted this approach and, with the assistance of the EA and Defra, increased levels of protection against flooding and coastal erosion.

In Hereford, Asda contributed £2M as part of the planning conditions for a supermarket in the town, in addition to constructing 440m of flood defence. The total cost of the scheme was £7.5M and it provides protection to 196 properties.

Leinster said: “The Environment Agency has been given £629m by Defra to reduce flood and coastal risk this year, £21M more than last year.

“We are on track to reduce flood risk to 160,000 properties in England between April 2008 and March 2011 – exceeding our Government target for the period by 15,000.

“Whilst continued government investment in managing the risk of flooding is important, we must now also look at alternative funding streams, including increased contributions from those who will benefit from future defence schemes.

Bob Sargent, director of water environment for Hyder Consulting, welcomed the news. He said: “It’s the way forward. With increased demand and reduced money available, it’s inevitable. It might open up local flood management of flood defences and with investment in flood defence there may be gains in land development opportunities.”

While he saw advantages of tying flood defences in closer with local authority planning, he warned that such arrangements would not work everywhere.

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