Thousands more homes and businesses will be given better protection from flooding and coastal erosion, as part of the plans published today by the government outlining a record £5.2bn of investment over the next six years.
More than £860m will be spent in 2021-22 on more than 1,000 schemes across England as part of the Environment Agency’s annual capital programme.
The funding is part of the new Flood & Coastal Erosion Investment Plan, which sets out how new flood and coastal schemes will better protect 336,000 properties by 2027. The aim is to help to avoid £32bn in wider economic damages and reduce the national flood risk by up to 11%. It follows the Environment Agency’s delivery of the government’s previous £2.6bn investment between 2015 and 2021, improving protection for more than 314,000 homes.
The funding will be accompanied by a consultation in the autumn, where the government will look at how to better protect frequently flooded communities, following a call for evidence earlier this year. It will consider how to strengthen the assessment of local circumstances, such as where areas have flooded on multiple occasions, when allocating funding during the six-year plan.
The Government will bring in tighter guidance for planning authorities as part of a package of actions to protect and prepare communities for flooding. New guidance will seek to ensure that planning decisions on schemes at risk flooding do not ignore Environment Agency objections.
Other new measures include improvements to Flood Re, the UK-wide scheme which helps homes at risk of flood secure insurance cover. This will allow insurers to help flooded households to make their homes more resilient to future flooding using products such as air brick covers, flood doors and flood resistant plasterboard - and benefit from discounted insurance premiums if they have these installed.
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.
“This year will see an extra £250 million spent on flood and coastal defences in 2021/22 compared with last year - the highest ever annual investment. It includes an extra £40 million compared with last year for schemes in Yorkshire and the Humber, a region that has suffered from repeated flooding in recent years, and an extra £53 million for the north west, the region which was hit hardest by Storm Christoph this winter.”
Emma Howard Boyd, chair of the Environment Agency, said: “We have seen some devastating flooding around the world so far this summer. No one can prevent all flooding and climate change means the risk is increasing, but we can reduce the risks.
“Having completed the government’s previous six-year capital programme on time and on budget, better protecting more than 314,000 homes from flooding and coastal erosion, this year we began the government’s new £5.2 billion flood programme.
“These schemes should provide reassurance to communities and businesses, but no one should have a false sense of security. I strongly urge people to sign up for flood warnings and regularly check flood risk on gov.uk.”
On planning, a recent review of decisions by Defra, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and the Environment Agency found over 97% of planning decisions for residential properties were made in line with Environment Agency (EA) advice in the year 2019/20. However, 866 homes were granted planning permission contrary to EA advice.
New guidance for local planning authorities, designed to drive up compliance with planning rules, will reaffirm that they must refer planning decisions to ministers when the Environment Agency is sustaining an objection on flood risk. Under the plans, 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.
Communities secretary Robert 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 has committed to publish a Property Flood Resilience Roadmap by the end of next year which will further accelerate take-up of property flood resilience measures by identifying action needed from industry and government.