Skip to main content

Flood-risk Areas: Rural Communities

Volume 738: debated on Thursday 19 October 2023

The Government’s six-year £5.2 billion flood investment programme benefits both urban and rural communities. Approximately 40% of schemes and 45% of investments are being directed at rural communities, which have benefited from our frequently flooded fund, our natural flood management fund and our flood and coastal innovation programmes.

The Minister has visited Shrewsbury a number of times at my invitation, and has heard at first hand from the River Severn Partnership, which is trying to find a holistic solution to the problems of managing Britain’s longest river rather than just creating flood barriers which push the problem downstream. When can give us more information and an update on the resources being afforded to the partnership to support landowners and others who can be part of that solution?

I thank my hon. Friend for the great work that he does with the partnership. Both the Secretary of State and I have visited his constituency. There are funds available: the £25 million for natural flood management schemes may be of interest to farmers, and the environmental land management schemes include provisions for temporary storage capacity on farms.

In the autumn, storm overflows are inevitable, and my constituents are holding their breath as they wonder whether their homes will be flooded once again. I understand from speaking to residents that it is very unclear whom they should call when that occurs, so will the Minister look again at setting up a national flood line that can be called at any time, and ensure that it is connected to a local flood centre that will be accountable for a response from local services?

I have visited my hon. Friend’s constituency, and I know that she has done a great deal of work on the issue of flooding. The Environment Agency works in partnership with the Met Office to provide an online “checking for flooding” service, which is operating today to deal with Storm Babet. Members of the public can check the flood risk, find advice and guidance on how to prepare for flooding, and sign up for warnings on the site.

I listened carefully to the Minister’s response, and I noted that she did not mention the National Infrastructure Council’s report, commissioned by the Government a year ago, which stated that an extra 190,000 homes were at risk of flooding—not because of climate change, but because of the Government’s failure to maintain existing flood defence assets. When the Government cannot even get the basics right, how can anyone possibly trust them to have the answers to the ever-increasing flood risk that our country faces?

That is exactly the Environment Agency’s duty, and it works very hard on the asset management side of our flood assets, which are a very large proportion of our £5.2 billion fund.