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Flood Defence Programme

Volume 599: debated on Thursday 10 September 2015

12. How many flood defences the Government plan to build under their six-year flood defence programme. (901281)

The Government plan to invest in 1,500 schemes over the next six years. This £2.3 billion investment will provide extra protection to an additional 300,000 households.

All my colleagues in Lincolnshire and I have been working closely on this issue. Will the Minister commit to protecting not only the excellent Boston barrier scheme, which will protect Boston, but the agricultural areas of Lincolnshire, and to working with the Environment Agency, Natural England and the drainage boards, to make sure we get the best possible result for the county?

I absolutely give that assurance. In addition to the Boston barrier, which is a £97 million programme, Lincshore is protecting 30 km of the Lincolnshire coast, with £7 million a year over 20 years providing additional protection to 16,000 homes, as well as to the farmland my hon. Friend has mentioned.

The future of flood management on the Somerset levels—Taunton Deane covers quite a lot of the Somerset levels—depends largely on the establishment of the new Somerset Rivers Authority. Will the Minister provide an update on progress and give assurances that there will be adequate funding to ensure flood protection and management in the future?

Somerset has been a serious priority for the Government. More than £1 million has been invested in setting up the Somerset Rivers Authority. We have committed more than £15 million over the next six years to Somerset exactly to achieve the objectives laid out by my hon. Friend.

Despite the completion only a couple of weeks ago of a first-class, Rolls-Royce flood alleviation scheme in my constituency, the residents are still terribly anxious about insurance. Will the Minister update the House on where we are regarding insurance premiums for flood alleviation schemes?

Flood Re was established in May and will become operational in May next year. The House will have an opportunity to debate the regulations with me next week.

Will my hon. Friend reassure me that, as well as the hard engineered projects that will be funded by the large sum of money he has mentioned, there will be soft engineered projects that build on the experience in Pickering, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake), which uses natural features such as woodland and coastland wetland areas, which protect coastal communities from flooding? Such schemes can be cheaper and more effective in certain circumstances.

My hon. Friend has an enormous amount of experience in this area. We can do much more to help on flooding, including restoration of peatland, woodland and wetland areas, which not only benefits flood alleviation, but considerably benefits habitats and the biodiversity that depends on them.

My hon. Friend has mentioned the Lincshore scheme, which is vital to protecting the Lincolnshire coast, and he will know that the deadline to ensure next year’s use of the scheme is this November. Will he meet me and my hon. Friend the Member for Boston and Skegness (Matt Warman) before November to discuss the final funding details for the scheme?

I would be delighted to meet my hon. Friend to discuss the final details of the Lincshore scheme, to which the Environment Agency is committed. The work, particularly the movement of sand, has taken the level of protection from one in 50 years to one in 200 years. That is something of which the House should be very proud.