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Government to invest £5.2bn into flood defences over six years

Words: Laura Edgar
Flooding in Slough, June 2021 / Paul30, Shutterstock_1998692075

The government has said 'thousands more homes and businesses' will be better protected from flooding and coastal erosion through its investment of £5.2 billion announced today (29 July), as the housing secretary has announced that planning applications opposed by the Environment Agency will be called in to be determined by his department.

A total of £860 million will be invested in 2021-2022 to boost design and construction of more than 1,000 schemes across England as part of the Environment Agency’s annual capital programme.

The money and the programme is part of the Flood and Coastal Erosion Investment Plan, also published today.

It sets out how new flood and coastal schemes will better protect 336,000 properties by 2027 and reduce the national flood risk by up to 100 per cent. This, the government says, will help to avoid £32 billion in wider economic damage.

The investment plans comes after the Environment Agency delivered a government investment of £2.6 billion between 2015 and 2021 in protecting 314,000 homes from flooding.

Earlier this month, Germany and Belgium saw devastating floods following rainfall, while the UK State of the Climate report has warned the UK is already undergoing changes to the climate, such as increased rainfall, sun and temperatures. It finds that the UK has "warmed at a broadly consistent but slightly higher rate than the observed change in global mean temperature" and 2020 was the UK's fifth wettest year in a series from 1862.

Environment secretary George Eustice said: "The tragic recent events in Germany and Belgium serve as a sobering reminder of how devastating flooding can be.

"We are standing by communities and will bolster defences against flooding across England with many thousands more properties better protected by 2027.

"It’s important we take action right across the system. Our comprehensive plan will achieve this by tightening planning procedures, helping more people access insurance and making homes more resilient to the effects of flooding."

Housing and communities secretary Robert Jenrick said new guidance for local planning authorities will be set out with the intention to increase compliance with planning rules. It will mean planning authorities must refer planning decisions to ministers if the Environment Agency objects to plans due to the risk of flooding.

He said the government will also consider how planning decisions in areas at risk from surface water flooding could be subject to the equivalent rules in future.

Jenrick said: "Flooding has a devastating impact on people’s lives and that’s why we’re strengthening our guidance to ensure the measures are in place to protect our homes and businesses from the risk of flooding.

"Our planning reforms will ensure that communities across the country know that future developments will be safe from floods.

"This new guidance will help local communities become more flood resilient by providing local authorities with the right tools to consider how flood risk can be prevented when planning for new homes."

The government also announced improvements to Flood Re, a UK-wide scheme that helps homes at risk of flooding secure insurance cover and allow insurers to help flooded households to make homes more resilient.

Image credit | Paul30, Shutterstock