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Flood Protection Schemes

Volume 570: debated on Thursday 21 November 2013

8. What effect partnership funding has had on the number of flood protection schemes initiated in the last 12 months. (901175)

Of the 507 schemes receiving DEFRA funding in 2013-14, 143 schemes have secured external contributions. Partnership funding contributions to schemes being built by the Environment Agency are expected to reach £22 million in 2013-14, up from £5.4 million in 2011-12. Contributions of up to £148 million have been identified for the four-year programme to 2014-15, and early indications suggest that up to 25% more schemes will go ahead than if costs were met by DEFRA alone.

I welcome such schemes in Swindon, but what steps has the Department taken to assist local authorities to use section 106 agreements to secure flood alleviation works for existing communities?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question. Local authorities are best placed to determine their infrastructure requirements through the local plan process and local flood risk management strategies. DEFRA, with the Environment Agency and the Local Government Association, has provided guidance, including practical examples of flood projects that have secured funding through section 106 agreements.

DEFRA’s own figures show that climate change could see the number of homes at risk of flooding more than double to more than 800,000 by the mid-2020s, yet the Committee on Climate Change’s report on adaptation makes it clear that even these figures underestimate the risk and that up to 500,000 homes might be left without protection. Why is the Secretary of State ignoring the science?

We are not. We are investing, with the various sources mentioned in my previous answers, a range of funds. Over this four-year period, we will spend more than any previous Government and protect 165,000 households—20,000 more than expected. This unprecedented programme is going ahead, despite the mess we inherited from the last Government.

Yes, indeed, the Department secured an extra £120 million from the Treasury last year, taking the amount of flood protection money to more than £2.3 billion, but may I impress on my right hon. Friend the urgent need to stress to the Treasury, in advance of the autumn statement, that for every £1 of taxpayers’ money spent on flood protection there is an £8 return?

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend and predecessor for her question and congratulate her on all the work she did in preparing for this. She is absolutely right. Shortly after I took over, I saw a scheme in Nottingham where there was an eight-to-one payback on a £45 million scheme protecting about 16,000 houses, but on the other side of the river there were 500 acres, blighted and left alone by the last Government, that are now up for redevelopment.