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Published: Tuesday 2nd December 2014 by The News Editor
More than 1,400 flood defence projects are to receive funding to provide better protection from flooding for hundreds of thousands of homes.
The Treasury is detailing projects that will receive a share of the £2.3 billion already earmarked for capital spending on flood defences over the next six years to improve protection for 300,000 homes, as part of plans for range of infrastructure investments.
The spending on flood defences includes major investments in areas such as the Humber Estuary, where £80 million will be spent, and £196 million for a programme in the Thames Estuary.
Ministers are also committing to spend £15.5 million on flood defences in Somerset over the next six years, which they hope will benefit 7,000 properties, including £4.2 million on the Somerset Levels and Moors which were badly hit by flooding last winter.
The Government has previously come under fire for its flood defence funding, with critics warning that not enough was being spent to protect homes and businesses from the increased risk of flooding in the face of climate change.
Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said: “We all saw the destruction and heartache caused by flooding last year and that is why this investment is vital to build up Britain’s defences for the future.
“The projects we are announcing today will protect some of the country’s most at risk locations ensuring that we will be as prepared as possible for future severe weather.”
Officials said the six-year programme would help prevent more than £30 billion of economic damage.
Major flood defence projects will benefit, including Tonbridge, Yalding and surrounding communities in Kent which will receive more than £17 million, £73 million for the Boston barrier, Lincolnshire, £42 million for the Oxford western conveyance scheme and £47 million for coastal defence improvements for Rossall, Lancashire.
The coalition also announced it would be starting “closer discussions” with a company bidding to build the world’s first tidal lagoon energy plant, in Swansea Bay, to establish if the renewable power scheme is affordable and value for money for consumers.
Other projects announced as part of the National Infrastructure Plan include a deal with Toshiba, GDF Suez and NuGen to provide a guarantee to assist the financing of a new nuclear power plant at Moorside, near Sellafield, Cumbria.
Up to £50 million will be available between 2017-2020 to support innovation in manufacturing ultra-low emission vehicles, with £25 million coming from Government, which hopes the money will be match-funded by industry.
Funding for number of rail projects is also being announced, including a new station at Chesterton, linked to Cambridge Science Park, and support to improve the resilience of the rail link to south west England which was badly damaged in the winter storms and floods.
Companies that own and operate electricity interconnectors, enabling the UK to tap into power supplies from other countries, will be allowed to bid for funding to ensure energy security and reduce bills, the Treasury said.
The flood defence announcement is likely to provoke more controversy after years of claim and counter-claim about spending to protect homes, businesses and land from flood waters.
Ministers say they have spent a record £3.2 billion in this parliament, though the figure includes extra money announced following flooding as well as spending for 2010/2011 in the first year of the coalition which was set out by the previous government.
The National Audit Office recently highlighted real terms cuts in spending on maintaining defences, while the Government’s climate advisers, the Committee on Climate Change, have warned of a £500 million shortfall between what has been spent in this parliament and what is needed to cope with the rising risk of flooding.
The spending announcement comes as Friends of the Earth revealed leaked documents suggesting there was still a half a billion pounds shortfall in the budget for flood defences over the next parliament.
The environmental charity said the documents from the regional flood and coastal committees, also showed there were £1.6 billion worth of viable projects that had been proposed but were not getting the go-ahead.
Friends of the Earth climate campaigner Guy Shrubsole, who obtained the documents, said: “A year after Britain’s wettest winter ever, the Chancellor’s leaked flood defence plans simply don’t hold water.
“Faced with rising sea levels, the Government needs to be investing far more in flood defences to protect households and prevent climate change from the outset.
“But these leaked plans show that Mr Osborne isn’t taking the threat of climate change seriously: having foolishly neglected defences over the last Parliament, he’s proposing to do the same over the next one.
“The Chancellor must use his Autumn Statement to invest enough in flood defences to keep pace with global warming, and redouble efforts to wean the economy off flood-inducing fossil fuels.”
Shadow environment secretary Maria Eagle said: “Communities at risk of flooding won’t buy Government spin on what is simply a re-announcement of capital funding confirmed a year ago.
“This is not new money – at the beginning of this parliament David Cameron cut the flood protection budget by over a £100m a year.
“As a result we are playing catch up on flood defences. The Committee on Climate on Change has already said that the Government’s plans could leave 80,000 additional properties at serious risk of flooding.”
And she said: “There have been reports of a £500 million black hole in these plans which the Government expect communities to meet themselves.
“This kind of uncertainty is unfair on those affected – we need a proper long term plan for infrastructure investment including flooding which is why we have called for an Independent National Infrastructure Commission.”
Published: Tuesday 2nd December 2014 by The News Editor