Thomas Bridge 02 December 2014

1,400 flood defence projects win funding

Over 1,400 flood defence projects have been chosen to receive government investment, in moves expected to improve protection for 300,000 homes.

Schemes chosen to share the £2.3bn already earmarked for the next six years are expected to help prevent over £30bn of economic damage to England.

Major investments are anticipated in areas such as the Thames Estuary – where £196m will be spent – and for a £180m improvement programme in the Humber Estuary.

Flood defences in Somerset are due to receive £15.5m in additional funding over the next six years, which is forecast to protect 7,000 local properties. The Somerset Levels and Moors are due to see £4.2m of flood defence improvement works after the region was badly affected in last winter’s storms.

The Government has been previously accused of under-funding flood protection, with auditors claiming spend had fallen by 6% in real terms between 2010/11 and 2014/15 despite a £270m cash drive last winter. The National Audit Office has raised questions about the level of funding available to the Environment Agency, which it claims has insufficient financial backing to maintain the country’s defences.

However the Government stressed projects announced as part of the National Infrastructure Plan would significantly reduce the risk to properties in vulnerable areas.

Chief secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, said: ‘We all saw the destruction and heartache caused by flooding last year and that is why this investment is vital to build Britain's defences for the future.

‘The projects we are announcing today will protect some of the country's most at-risk locations ensuring that we will be as prepared as possible for future severe weather.’

Labour’s shadow environment secretary, Maria Eagle, said the country was ‘playing catch up on flood defences’ following cuts to the flood protection budget of over a £100m a year made in 2010.

‘There have been reports of a £500m black hole in these plans which the Government expect communities to meet themselves. This kind of uncertainty is unfair on those affected - we need a proper long term plan for infrastructure investment including flooding which is why we have called for an Independent National Infrastructure Commission,’ Eagle said.

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