Posted: Thursday 30th July 2009

Two new reports from the Environment Agency show that 1 in 6 homes in England are at risk of flooding and that investment in the building and maintaining of flood defences will need to almost double to £1bn a year by 2035, as climate change increases the risk of coastal erosion and flooding from rivers and the sea.

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 yesterday (Thursday 18 June).

The Environment Agency’s strategy 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 £2.5 billion to £4 billion by 2035 unless funding for defences is increased. The organisation has calculated that the damage avoided through its investment proposals could save England some £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 ten 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 by the Environment Agency show that:

The Long Term Investment Strategy does not assume that future investment needs will be funded by central government alone and the Environment Agency would welcome a public debate to identify other possible sources of funding, enabling local communities to contribute to reducing flood risk in their locality. Sir Michael Pitt, in his independent review of the summer 2007 floods, recommended that locally-funded flood defences should become a bigger feature of flood risk management.

The Environment Agency’s 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.”

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