Ministers have said ‘lessons learnt’ from last winter’s floods have led to a ‘new approach’, but the Government’s review of flood resilience in England includes little new money in response to predictions of much higher rainfall.
Environment secretary Andrea Leadsom has published the National Flood Resilience Review, the outcome of a cross-government review launched in January after severe winter flooding in the North of England.
Floods last December washed away part of the A591 in Cumbria
New measures include: £12.5m for new temporary defences such as barriers and high volume pumps at seven strategic locations around the country; a commitment from utility companies to increase flood protection of their key local infrastructure, such as phone networks; and a new stress test of the risk of flooding from rivers and the sea.
In July, the Climate Change Committee, which provides independent advice to the Government and Parliament warned of ‘cascading infrastructure failures’ from flooding.
Ms Leadsom said: ‘Last winter we saw just how devastating flooding can be. This review sets out clear actions so we are better prepared to respond quickly in the event of future flooding and can strengthen the nation’s flood defences.
‘We are absolutely committed to reducing the risk of flooding by investing £2.5bn up to 2021 so we can help protect families, homes and businesses this winter.’
Environment Department Defra said that by the winter, the Environment Agency (EA) will have four times more temporary barriers than last year and that for the first time, Met Office forecasts of extreme rainfall scenarios will be linked with EA modelling to provide a new assessment of flood risk.
EA chief executive Sir James Bevan said the organisation had worked closely with the Government on the review and welcomed the new plans.
However, Friends of the Earth campaigner Guy Shrubsole said: ‘This review suggests a sea change in Government understanding of floods, but its recommendations are a wash-out.
'£12.5m for temporary flood defences is a drop in the ocean when the review concludes that winter rainfall could increase by up to 30% in future in parts of the UK - signalling politicians' acceptance that the climate is changing radically.
'This is a huge increase in rainfall on top of the unprecedented extreme weather that caused such suffering last winter, and will put thousands more homes and businesses at risk.
'Yet the review ducks a commitment to higher long-term investment in defences, and contains nothing on working with nature to reduce flooding, such as planting trees.’
Defra said the Government will now turn its attention to investment after 2021, ‘making sure funds are directed where they are needed most’.