Environment Secretary Liz Truss inspects Ipswich flood protection

Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss takes a look at some of the work involved in the Ipswich Flood

Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss takes a look at some of the work involved in the Ipswich Flood Defence Scheme. Pictured with Local MP Ben Gummer and Dr Charles Beardall from the Environment Agency( right)

Environment Secretary Liz Truss has visited Ipswich to formally unveil a nationwide £2.3billion programme of flood defence work across the country.

But there was criticism that the money unveiled in the build-up to today’s Autumn Statement by Chancellor George Osborne was merely a re-announcement of previously-unveiled cash.

Ms Truss was in Ipswich to see how work on the town’s £53 million flood defences was coming along – that is not affected by the “new” money being discussed today.

However she said the announcement was important for coastal communities in East Anglia, from Clacton to Lowestoft, Great Yarmouth, and Cromer.

And she said her department was also trialling a new way of supporting smaller flood protection schemes in Hampshire – that was a scheme that could be rolled out to smaller coastal communities in the future.

Communities at Bawdsey and near Southwold have struggled to get support for small flood protection schemes, and Ms Truss said this could change in the future.

She said: “We want to work with communities – or individuals in communities – to try to support them wherever possible.”

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Her department was planning to spend £193 million on 92 flood protection schemes across East Anglia – including increasing the level of protection for property in Lowestoft, which suffered during last December’s tidal surge.

Nationally the government announced major investments in areas such as the Humber Estuary, the Thames Estuary, and Somerset Levels.

The spending over the next six years should protect 420,000 acres of agricultural land, 205 miles of railways, 340 miles of roads and four airports, as well as providing better protection for 300,000 homes, the Government said.

Ms Truss said: “We know how vital it is to tackle flood risk and from the Humber Estuary in the North-East to Thames Estuary in the South this ambitious programme of defences will reduce the threat of flooding for hundreds of thousands of people.

“This £2.3billion investment will protect over 300,000 properties over the course of six years, allowing businesses and communities to thrive and local economies to flourish.”

However shadow Environment Secretary Maria Eagle said the £2.3billion was not new – but a re-announcement of money confirmed a year ago.

She said the government had cut flood protection budgets by £100 million a year since taking power in 2010 – forcing it to play catch-up to prevent further damage.

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