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NCE Live News updates Tuesday 7 January 2014: MPs refute suggestions that government cuts will not hamper flood efforts; Severe flood warnings persist

While three severe flood warnings remain in place for parts of the South West of England this morning, MPs have called on the government to clarify exactly what effect budget cuts will have on emergency efforts.

5pm: To finish the day - happy news from Crossrail:


4pm: The Environment Agency has just issued a warning that the risk of flooding will continue this week across the south of England as rivers respond to heavy rainfall and groundwater remains high. 

There is a continuing risk of flooding from groundwater in Dorset and south Wiltshire. The Environment Agency said it was supporting local authorities who will respond to any reports of groundwater flooding. Flooding is ongoing on parts of the Somerset Levels and property flooding is possible within the next 24 hours as levels continue to rise.

River flooding is expected along the River Stour, the Hampshire Avon and the Thames, including Oxford and the lower reaches of the Thames.

Along the Thames water levels remain high and continue to rise in response to the recent rainfall. From today there is an increased flood risk in the lower stretch of the Thames. The Thames barrier has been closed for the 11th successive high tide to protect people and property along the Thames. Temporary defences are in place in Osney, near Oxford and Purley yesterday to protect properties.

The Met Office is forecasting further rainfall tonight in the southeast and Wednesday night into Thursday in parts of south west England.

Environment Agency workers are continuing to check and maintain flood defences, clearing blockages in watercourses, deploying temporary defences, monitoring water levels and issuing flood warnings where necessary.

Most recent estimates suggest that around 550 properties have flooded since the start of 2014. The Agency said over 222,000 properties had been protected by flood defences.


1.35pm: Three severe flood warnings remain in place this afternoon in the South West.

The Environment Agency is warning of the risk of danger to life for two areas of Weymouth and one in Bournemouth.

There are a further 107 flood warnings where immediate action is required across England and Wales. More details are on the Environment Agency website here or see below.


1.15pm: Severn Trent Water has appointed Turner & Townsend to support the delivery of its capital programmes.

The company has been awarded a 10 year framework covering the remainder of the current Asset Management Period (AMP) 5 regulatory period, the five-year AMP6 period and part of AMP7. The framework, which is expected to cover a total capital expenditure of over £6bn, will involve the delivery of a range of commercial and cost consultancy services. For AMP6 this includes increased levels of service and environmental improvements in line with keeping costs down for the bill payer, said the firm.

“A number of our clients like Severn Trent have set themselves tough targets for AMP6 – but by a whole life cost and performance focussed approach to totex, using intelligent programme data, we will work with the companies to deliver these targets,” said Turner & Townsend director and water sector leader Jason Jones.

Atkins, MWH and Jacobs have already started working on a 10 year engineering consultancy framework for the water company that will also span AMP6 and AMP7. The contract started in August and is worth between £8M and £25M a year.


10.45am: WSP’s UK strategy is to grow its market share from 2% to 3% over the next three years through net revenue growth of 10% per annum. 

Its Q3 financials, reported on the Toronto stock exchange in November 2013, showed total global revenues of $490.5M (£279.6M), up 23.8% from £225.8M in 2012, and profits of £26.8M. This includes organic growth of 5.5%, partly generated by an increase in operations in UK and Europe.

“The year 2013 was a fast-paced year for WSP’s UK business, focussed on maximising the combined strength and new opportunities presented by our merger with Genivar while keeping our feet firmly on the ground in the domestic market,” said UK managing director Mark Naysmith.

“Growth this year will predominantly come from rail, highways, commercial and residential property. This is particularly true in London and the South-east where the market is booming and regional activity is increasing. On the back of key roles in major national projects such as Crossrail and the redevelopment of London Bridge Station we are well positioned to continue winning market share,” he said.

To deliver on the expected growth this year WSP will be recruiting across all its regions including increased intakes of graduates and apprentices.

WSP currently has approximately 15,000 employees globally, with a target of increasing this to 20,000 by 2015. The UK business has over 2,400 people covering all areas of property, development planning, management and industrial consultancy, infrastructure, environment and energy.


9.45am: MPs have refuted claims by that cuts to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) budget will not hamper efforts to deal with flooding.

Officials from the Environment Agency told NCE this week that cuts to its budget as a result, which have triggered a decision to reduce staff numbers by 1,500, would not hamper its ability to major floods as have been seen in recent days and weeks. The Agency has to cut employee numbers to 9,700 by October 2014.

However, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee said that while Defra was one of the smallest government departments it had faced one of the most substantial budget cuts, which is set to continue to 2016.

“Defra is a small ministry facing massive budget cuts and which relies on a large number of arms length bodies to deliver many significant areas of policy,” said committee chairman Anne McIntosh. “Ministers must clarify how further budgets cuts of over £300M over the coming two years will impact on the funding provided to these agencies and the ability of the department to respond to emergencies.

“Recent flooding events over the Christmas and New year period reinforce the Committee’s concerns about cuts to the Defra budget and how these will be realised…

“We have asked the department to confirm the amount of contributions received from external sources under the Partnership Funding approach and to demonstrate how the Partnership Funding model for flood defences will deliver much greater private sector funding in the future. This will allow the drainage boards to do more of the essential maintenance work of main watercourses using their own resources.”

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