Flood defence cash plea

FAILURE to invest in flood defences could spell disaster for new homes planned for high-risk areas, according to one Essex MP.Brooks Newmark, Conservative MP for Braintree, claims that climate change and a lack of Government spending on defences in his constituency could see the vulnerable area suffer in a similar way in which it was damaged by flooding five years ago.

FAILURE to invest in flood defences could spell disaster for new homes planned for high-risk areas, according to one Essex MP.

Brooks Newmark, Conservative MP for Braintree, claims that climate change and a lack of Government spending on defences in his constituency could see the vulnerable area suffer in a similar way in which it was damaged by flooding five years ago.

The East of England Regional Assembly is recommending that 123,000 new homes are built in Essex by 2021 and many fear these extra buildings will put a strain on local infrastructure.

Despite claims by the Deputy Prime Minister that the Government had put a “record amount” of money into financing flood control, Mr Newmark, who lives in Bradwell, is concerned not enough of the money will be seen in north and mid Essex.


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He said: “I want to know where all of this supposed extra investment is going. We are all increasingly aware of the challenges posed by climate change and the impact that rising sea levels will have on our communities in the years to come.

“I couldn't even get out of my village during the 2001 floods, and I've had a number of letters from people still concerned that if we have another torrential rainfall then there will be a similar result.

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“I've had a meeting with the EA to see what's been going on. They're only given so much money. We need to take pressure off the River Blackwater.”

The Environment Agency, which is in charge of flood management across the country, said its budget for funding flood control projects had been cut by DEFRA, the Government Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

New housing projects are referred to the agency and when a planning application is submitted to the local authority it decides on a case-by-case basis whether it is necessary to do a flood risk assessment.

The agency controls flood defences for new and existing homes and has recently finished a £5million scheme in Halstead to prevent a repeat of the devastating flooding five years ago.

An agency spokeswoman said: “Funding is a matter for the Government to decide. What we have to do is work with the funds that DEFRA allocate us.

“If there's flood alleviation that needs to be undertaken then there's money here for it.”

She added there were several factors that contributed to a points system used when determining which projects are prioritised. These include the number of people affected by potential flooding, the value of the properties threatened and the scientific or historic value of the area.

But Braintree district councillor Michael Gage, portfolio holder for the environment, said he was satisfied with the money that had been spent in the area and that the new protection put in place in Halstead was a step in the right direction.

He added: “The Government has its priorities. Insufficient investment in flood defences is of great concern and I think the Government have gone with the long-term view.”

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