A review of the way fluvial flooding and coastal defence projects are funded is leading to changes in strategy, says Environment Agency head of flood management David Rooke.
The biggest change is the Agency's adoption of all rivers presenting a flood risk - critical ordinary water courses, or COWs. The number of flood defence committees has been slimmed down. Flood defence is now managed through regional authorities rather than local committees, with funding in the form of single block grants awarded through the Agency.
'We have implemented the first and second phases of COW adoption with the third due by March 2006, ' says Rooke. So far 689 COWs under 152 operating authorities have been transferred to the Agency.
There are still another 1,062 to go. The Agency says the change has so far saved £200,000 a year.
In rivers and around the coast the government is pursuing its Making Space for Water strategy. This involves relinquishing land to provide flood storage.
Funding on fl ood and coastal projects is rising.
In 1996/97 £310M a year was spent but this year that figure will be more like £570M. It is still going up.
But research and development funding is not keeping pace. 'The budget allocation is too low to match the changing policy arena and there is an urgent need for greater efficiencies, ' says head of the Flood Hazard Research Council Edmund Penning-Rowsell. 'In 2004/05 £3.7M was spent on research.
This needs to be £7M.'