Flood defence fears

REFORMS to flood defence funding could put excessive strains on Lincolnshire’s coastal communities and impinge on the provision of other services, a county councillor fears.

Coun Colin Davie, chairman of Lincolnshire County Council’s flood and drainage scrutiny committee, believes the funding changes will require local authorities to contribute unaffordable sums towards vital sea defences.

Previously all funding has come from central government, however the new partnership system recommended by Defra involves costs being shared with local authorities and other orgnaisations set to benefit from flood defences

With the financial strains that councils are facing already, Coun Davie fears this could result in under investment in other important services for deprived coastal areas.

He said: “This would be a disaster for coastal communities because all of the local authority’s available money would be swallowed up by flood defence.

“We already spend £12million a year on flood risk management and that figure is going to rise enormously with global warming and rising sea levels.”

The Environment Agency, which is responsible for managing flood defences, has said the changes have been raised to enable greater flexibility in the system.

Previously flood defence projects were approved on a priority basis according to their level of importance and the number of homes set to benefit.

Under the partnership method, schemes that would have been deemed to be of too low priority to receive national funding can still proceed if local partners contribute a sufficient amount of their own. A spokesperson for the Environment Agency said: “The government is trying to encourage a cost effective option to look at flood defence management.

“It is trying to make sure the people most at risk are protected and other people who are less at risk also have the option to invest in flood defences, that would previously not have been approved.”

The system recently funded a project in Louth with contributions from central government, local authorities and Anglian Water.

Although Coun Davie can see the benefits for one-off inland projects such as that, he believes the continual maintenance required for coastal defences is of a scale and importance too great to rely on local contributions.

He said: “Although I support the measures for small inland schemes, coastal defence is a national issue and should be funded from national taxation.”

Defra’s report explains that some projects could still be fully funded by that national tax payer if the perceived benefits are great enough, however Coun Davie is worried that for many projects there would still be an expectation on the local community to contribute more than it can afford to.