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Government sets out plans to protect properties from flooding

Words: Laura Edgar
Flooding / iStock-470833555

The government has committed £5.2 billion to tackle flooding in England, as it seeks to protect 336,000 properties by 2027.

The investment is part of a long-term plan to better protect homes and businesses and make them more resilient to flooding and coastal erosion. It is hoped the plan will prevent £32 billion in economic damage.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “Last winter I saw for myself the misery and upheaval that flooding can bring to lives and livelihoods and I said we would do more to help people.

“This long-term plan will help push back the flood waters and protect hundreds of thousands of homes, businesses and livelihoods. Our record investment will also stimulate economic growth across the UK as we build back better.”

The plan, which the government says is “the most comprehensive in a decade”, outlines that the £5.2 billion will be used to create approximately 2,000 flood and coastal defences to protect properties in England, as well as support for households and businesses to get “back on their feet more quickly” after flooding. 

It also sets out that £200 million will be put towards “innovative” projects like sustainable drainage systems and nature-based solutions like temporary or permanent water storage areas. This will support 25 areas at risk of flooding to test such solutions.

‘Shovel-ready’ projects also form part of the plan, with £170 million to go towards accelerating construction of them in 22 areas. Work will begin either this year or 2021.

Five commitments, supported by 40 clear actions, according to the government, will accelerate progress to protect and prepare the country in the coming years:

  • Upgrade and expand flood defences and infrastructure across the country.
  • Manage the flow of water to both reduce flood risk and manage drought.
  • Harness the power of nature to not only reduce flood risk, but deliver benefits for the environment, nature, and communities;
  • Better prepare communities for when flooding and erosion does occur.
  • Ensure every area of England has a comprehensive local plan for dealing with flooding and coastal erosion.

The government explained that its plan also proposes changing the joint government and insurance industry Flood Re scheme, which will be consulted on.

Subject to consultation, the changes would allow claims to include an “additional amount so that flood resilience measures are included in repairs, and allow households that have property flood resilience measures in place to benefit from lower premiums”.

Environment secretary George Eustice said: “The devastating impacts of last winter’s flooding were an important reminder of the need to continue to invest and accelerate action to reduce the impact of flooding on our communities.”

He said that because flooding cannot be prevented entirely, the government “will ensure that communities at high risk are more resilient”.

“Working closely with the Environment Agency, local authorities, business and the third sector we will create a better protected and prepared nation.”

The £5.2 billion capital funding programme will run from 2021-2027, while other aspects of the plan will continue further into the future, the government said.

Details of the 22 flood defence shovel-ready projects to receive government funding include:

  • Leeds: £21 million for the Leeds Phase 2 Flood Alleviation Scheme which aims to protect more than 370 businesses and 3,300 jobs, and enable the development of land for the creation of homes and jobs. This is subject to a satisfactory business case approved by Defra and HMT. 
  • Tenbury Wells and the Severn Valley: Two flood schemes aim to protect nearly 3,000 homes in areas which were badly affected by last winter’s floods, and protecting and creating more than 22,000 jobs along the Severn Valley. This will be supplemented by an additional scheme combining natural flood risk management, tree planting and habitat creation to reduce flood risk and capture carbon throughout the Severn Valley.
  • Brighton, Hove, and Shoreham: £2 million to protect critical infrastructure on the south coast, including a power plant serving 300,000 homes and one of the largest cargo ports in the south of England.
  • Falmouth: A scheme to reduce risks associated with surface water flooding and allow further growth in a town centre waterfront location.
  • Bude: Sustain existing protection, preserving the functioning of a key part of the town and thereby allowing continued growth in the local tourism industry. 
  • East Cowes: Reduce the risk of tidal flooding and increase resilience for properties and businesses including the ferry terminal.


Mark Bridgeman, president of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), said: “It’s encouraging to see government taking another positive step to help combat ongoing problems with flooding.

“While the pledge focuses on creating new flood and coastal defences to better protect properties, it’s vitally-important that there’s still long-term funding for maintenance of existing flood defence assets, including ring-fenced funding for protection of agricultural land.

“Farmers and land owners often spot problems with flood defences and maintenance requirements but bureaucracy often prevents early preventative actions. There should be a simpler system enabling farmers to carry out minor flood defence work on their own property to protect their assets and livelihoods.

“The value from flooding land to protect properties and business should be recognised in future land management agreements and build in the soft engineering solutions of trees and other natural features that slow the water flow and can offer natural flood management alongside the hard engineering.”

David Renard, environment spokesman for the Local Government Association, said: “Flooding can devastate communities, causing enormous disruption to families and businesses, and resulting in huge clean-up bills, so this funding is good news and will support protection work by councils to prepare for heavy rainfalls.

“Funding for flood defences needs to be devolved to local areas to ensure money is directed towards projects that best reflect local needs, which includes protecting key roads and bridges to keep local residents and businesses moving.

“It is good that flood defence construction schemes will be fast-tracked, and while the Bellwin scheme for emergency flood relief funding is vital for councils, it often doesn’t cover the clean-up costs. Councils need to be able to access funding for these purposes, more easily and more quickly."

Image credit | iStock