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Defra review outlines £12.5m for temporary flood defences

The new flood defence review from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has promised new investment and initiatives to help the UK deal with the increased risk of floods.

The National Flood Resilience Review was announced in January after parts of the UK suffered devastating floods.

The report, which was published today after the government was criticised for delays, warns that the risk of extreme flooding, linked to global warming, is growing.

The new report says: “Over recent years the UK has been hit by a number of extreme flood events, in Somerset, Cumbria, Yorkshire and elsewhere. Record rainfall and river levels have led to widespread floods severely affecting cities and communities, bringing misery to the lives of thousands and seriously disrupting businesses and livelihoods.

“Communities have lost power, water and telecoms during the flooding, and have then had to deal with the lengthy process of recovery. We need to recognise that there is a non-negligible chance that we will see further events of a similar, or maybe even greater, scale over the next decade.”

It sets out a number of immediate commitments for the UK to improve its resilience to floods.

Defra has also established a group of experts from areas including the flooding and water industry, engineering, architecture, development, infrastructure, finance, technology and commerce to look at ways to incorporate flood resilience into development in Sheffield. If this approach is successful, it will be introduced in other core cities.

A recent report by the Environmental Audit Committee said the Department for Communities and Local Government should adopt a “systematic approach” to building new homes in flood-risk areas.

Defra has also promised to develop a standard operating model for local responders and the Environment Agency will work with Local Resilience Forums to identify opportunities to embed good practice in their flood response plans.

The government will establish a national infrastructure resilience council, alongside utilities industry representatives, and the Environment Agency and many local services will conduct a resilience exercise this autumn to test their readiness for more floods.

In addition, the Environment Agency will invest £12.5m in temporary flood barriers, mobile water pumps and incident command vehicles, and £0.75m in maintaining assets such as rescue boats.

Andrea Leadsom, the environment secretary, said: “Last winter we saw just how devastating flooding can be. This review sets out clear actions so we are better prepared to respond quickly in the event of future flooding and can strengthen the nation’s flood defences.

“Work is already underway towards £12.5m of new temporary defences stationed around England, better protection for our infrastructure and new flood modelling that makes better use of data and technology.

“We are absolutely committed to reducing the risk of flooding by investing £2.5bn up to 2021 so we can help protect families, homes and businesses this winter.”

The government has promised to invest £680m in flood defences by 2021. It will now use the new review to guide its flood spending beyond that date. The report said that Defra and the Environment Agency would guide the government on which communities it is most important to invest in.

It adds that hard flood defences “can only be part of the solution” and the government’s 25-year plan for the environment will look at “strengthening the role of local partners” and the benefits of natural flood management.

Sir James Bevan, chief executive of the Environment Agency, said: “We worked closely with the government on this review. I welcome these plans setting out how the country can become more resilient to flooding in future.

“The extra funding will help us to do even more for local communities so that we can better protect homes and businesses and respond even more rapidly and flexibly when extreme weather strikes.”

(Image c. Owen Humphreys from PA Images)

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