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Protection against Flooding

Volume 692: debated on Thursday 22 April 2021

The Government are investing a record £5.2 billion to better protect 336,000 properties from flooding and coastal erosion over the next six years. Alongside that, we recently announced that 25 areas will receive a share of a further £150 million for particularly innovative projects dealing with flood resilience and pioneering many things that we think we will learn lessons from. Our long-term policy statement outlines our ambition to create a nation more resilient to flooding and coastal erosion and we are taking a whole range of actions to forward that.

I pay tribute to this Government for the significant flood mitigation investment that has been delivered. What discussions has my right hon. Friend the Environment Secretary had with our right hon. Friend the Communities Secretary about not building new homes on flood-risk areas, such as the proposed west of Ifield development?

As my hon. Friend will know, national planning policy provides clear safeguards for protecting people and property from flooding, and the national planning policy framework is very clear that inappropriate development in areas at risk of flooding should be avoided by directing development away from areas at the highest risk. Where development is necessary in such areas, that development should be made safe for its lifetime without increasing flood risk elsewhere, and should be appropriately flood-resilient.

Residents of Norton Green and their local ward councillors, Dave Evans, James Smith and Carl Edwards, have regularly raised the issue of flooding. The River Trent and the canal feeder to the Caldon canal both run through Norton Green, yet the river is hardly ever dredged. The river is the responsibility of the Environment Agency, and the canal feeder is the responsibility of Severn Trent Water. If those two agencies co-ordinated their work, they could help to alleviate the problem, so will my hon. Friend work with me to ensure that the Environment Agency and Severn Trent Water undertake regular dredging to help to improve the lives of Norton Green residents?

My hon. Friend is a doughty spokesman for his constituency, and rightly so. I encourage all relevant risk-management authorities to work together on watercourse maintenance, for the benefit of Norton Green’s residents in this case. Of course, responsibilities lie with a range of bodies, including the Environment Agency, which is responsible for the main rivers; lead local flood authorities or internal drainage boards, which are responsible for ordinary watercourses; and riparian landowners whose land adjoins a watercourse. My hon. Friend could usefully get all those heads together so that people can work constructively, as they are in many parts of the country, to deal with our flooding issues and keep our communities safe.

This year the Burnhams, the Creakes and other villages in North West Norfolk suffered flooding that resulted in sewage coming up through manhole covers due to water infiltrating the sewer system. Things got so bad that foul water had to be pumped into one of our precious chalk streams, so will the Minister ensure that the Environment Agency holds Anglian Water to account so that it puts in place plans and investment to ensure that that does not happen again?

That is a scenario that nobody wants to see repeated. I hope my hon. Friend knows that I am championing his cause, as are the Government. Tackling the harm caused by sewer overflows into rivers, particularly chalk streams, is a top priority for the Government. That is why we established a storm overflows taskforce, made up of the Government, the water industry, regulators and environmental groups, which has set a long-term goal to eliminate harm from storm overflows. The group is considering the problems caused by infiltration, which my hon. Friend mentioned, and last month we announced plans to introduce legislation to address these things. We are moving on this.