The Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Environment Agency have published a pair of consultation documents with the aim of encouraging greater local involvement in planning and prioritising flood defences, and bringing in local money from organisations that benefit.
Environment secretary Caroline Spelman said: “This new strategy will give communities and businesses more power to influence how they are protected, because local involvement means plans and funding can be specifically prioritised and tailored.”
The proposed new funding regime is designed to allow more schemes to go forward by encouraging local businesses or community groups that might benefit from a scheme to contribute to the funding. Those who will directly benefit from the schemes, such as local businesses and community groups, will have the opportunity for further voluntary investment.
Caroline Spelman added: “The old rules mean that a scheme that doesn’t qualify for total Government investment gets pushed to the back of the queue and sometimes never gets built. This new approach means that more schemes will be able to go ahead. By encouraging additional investment from a wider range of local organisations and businesses, local ambitions for flood protection will no longer be held back by national budgets.”
The proposals folllow Sir Michael Pitt’s findings in his review of the 2007 floods that central government cannot pay for all flood defence schemes. Government would therefore pay for a share of the benefits and outcomes that each project could achieve, as opposed to the full costs of fewer schemes under the current guidelines.
Payments would be made based on the individual benefits of the schemes, such as for each household protected or value of economic benefits. This would mean that schemes in rural areas would be judged on a level playing field with schemes in more densely populated areas.
Any private contributions to the cost of flood defences will be entirely voluntary and communities at most risk of flooding will still be prioritised for Government funding.
The National Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy consultation can be found at https://consult.environment-agency.gov.uk/portal/ho/flood/fcerm/strategy
The Future Funding of Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management in England consultation can be found at http://www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/flood-coastal-erosion/index.htm