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Environment Agency: England needs £1bn a year for flood protection

Flood protection funds need to double to £1bn a year by 2035 to protect the one in six homes at risk of flooding in England, according to two new reports from the Environment Agency published today.

In its Flooding in England report, the organisation has revealed that over 430,000 people in flood risk areas have now signed up to its flood warnings service and is urging those who are not yet subscribed to join. The free service provides vital early warning by SMS, telephone or email, helping to save the lives of those at risk of flooding.

Also publishing a Long Term Investment Strategy for England, the government’s environmental watchdog says that a steady increase in investment will be vital to maintain current levels of protection against rising seas levels, more rapid rates of coastal erosion, and increasingly severe and frequent rainstorms due to climate change. The funding recommendations are based on the latest climate change impact predictions, released yesterda.

The Environment Agency estimates that the annual cost of damage to residential and commercial property from flooding in England, as well as the cost of further disruption, damage to infrastructure and loss of business, could rise from £2.5bn to £4bn by 2035 unless funding for defences is increased.

The Agency has calculated that the damage avoided through its investment proposals could save England £180bn over the next 100 years but accepts that it may be necessary to look at other sources of funding alongside that of central government.

Over the past 10 years, more than 250,000 additional households have benefited from investment in new or improved defences. The organisation has completed 90 flood defence schemes since summer 2007, providing increased protection to over 58,000 properties.

New figures also released today by the Environment Agency show that:

  • One in six homes In England is currently at risk of flooding from rivers, the sea, or surface water from overflowing drains
  • More than 5M people currently live and work in 2.4M properties at risk from rivers or the sea - 490,000 of which have a significant chance of flooding. The organisation is warning that this figure would rise to 840,000 by 2035 if future investment is maintained at existing levels
  • An additional 2.8M properties are currently at risk of flooding from surface water. The Agency estimates that an additional £150M a year by 2035 will be required to help mitigate this risk
  • 55% of water treatment works and pumping stations, 14% of electricity infrastructure, 2,358 schools and 2,363 doctors’ surgeries in England are situated in flood risk areas, along with 4,000km of roads and 2,500km of railway

Environment Agency chairman Lord Chris Smith said: “Our 25 year flood and coastal risk Long Term Investment Strategy for England presents some important choices for government, local authorities, developers and others to consider.

“The latest UK climate change data shows that the risk of flooding and coastal erosion will continue to increase in future due to rising sea levels and more frequent and heavy storms, and there are important decisions for us all to take about how to manage these risks to protect people, communities, businesses and the economy in future.

“The Environment Agency has completed 90 flood defence schemes since summer 2007, providing increased protection to over 58,000 properties. Whilst continued investment in managing these risks is crucial, we cannot always prevent flooding so communities need to take responsibility for being prepared - for example by signing up to the Environment Agency’s free flood warning service.”

Regions ranked by the number of properties at significant risk of flooding from rivers or the sea

  • South East England Region 111,356
  • South West Region 86,178
  • East Midlands Region 81,096
  • Yorkshire & Humber Region 65,380
  • Greater London Authority 40,412
  • East of England Region 33,050
  • North West Region 28,941
  • West Midlands Region 19,173
  • North East Region 19,167

Top ten local areas with the highest number of properties in areas with a significant chance of flooding from rivers or the sea

  • Boston District 23,700
  • North Somerset 20,415
  • East Lindsey District 14,949
  • Windsor and Maidenhead 11,477
  • City of Kingston upon Hull 9,825
  • Shepway District 9,065
  • Sedgemoor District 8,092
  • East Riding of Yorkshire 7,513
  • Runnymede District 7,007
  • Warrington 6,533

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