Floods: £120m Extra Cash For Defences

Floods: £120m Extra Cash For Defences

The Government has announced £120m of new funding for flood defences which it says will improve protection for up to 60,000 homes.

It comes amid clean-up operations across the UK in the aftermath of the recent flooding which devastated communities in the South West, Midlands, Wales and North East.

Ministers said £60m will be targeted at areas where improving defences against flooding could unlock investment and growth in the area, and the rest will go to speed up delivery of up to 50 schemes already in the pipeline.

They believe the money, which will be delivered between next year and 2015, will not only boost defences, but also provide £1bn in economic benefits.

Potential projects which could benefit from the funding include Leeds, where the riverside area is regularly threatened by floods and defences could protect 250 businesses, employing more than 100,000 people, and more than 3,100 homes.

The money is in addition to the £2bn being spent on flooding and coastal erosion this spending period up to 2015 - half of which is for capital projects such as flood defences.

Earler this week, the Prime Minister hinted a cash boost may be on the way. Defending the Government's spending plans on flood defences, David Cameron told the Commons: "We believe by spending the money better and by leveraging from private and other sectors we can increase that level of flood defence spending.

"The spending that is already under way will protect an additional 145,000 homes between now and 2015, but if we can go further, of course we should."

But ministers have faced criticism that they have cut flood defence spending at a time when their own advisers say hundreds of millions of pounds more cash is needed to help the UK cope with greater risk of flooding as the climate changes.

This summer, government climate advisers said flood defence spending is 12% below levels in the last spending review period, with a gap opening up of £860m between money pledged for 2011/15 and what is needed to maintain protection.

Earlier this week, a report by Wildlife and Countryside Link, which includes 38 charities, warned not enough money was being spent on flood defences and said ministers were failing to prevent unnecessary building in areas at high risk of flooding.

Figures released by the Environment Agency showed some 1,600 properties were flooded during the recent bout of bad weather, while flood defences had protected more than 54,000 homes.

Shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh said: "This year's floods have shown how short-sighted the Government was to cut investment in flood defences by £95m a year, leaving homes and businesses unprotected.

"Flooding is the biggest threat the UK faces from climate change, yet even after today's mini U-turn the Government will still be spending less on flood defences next year than in 2008.

"Every £1 invested in flood defences saves £8 later and provides much needed construction work.

"What a shame ministers have wasted two years looking for shovel ready infrastructure projects while 294 flood schemes have been postponed or cancelled."

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