More than 2,000 homes will be better protected from the devastating effects of flooding after a proposed Exeter flood defence scheme was given a boost by additional government funding today.
For the first time ever, the Government has provided additional funding for projects that will unlock economic growth through a recent growth through flood alleviation bid of £6 million. The £26 million scheme will be funded from Flood Defence Grants in Aid (FDGiA) money of £14 million, Exeter City Council and Devon County Council contributions of £3 million each plus the shortfall money from the Government’s additional growth fund, that was bid for last year.
Estimated project completion is expected to be late 2017 and will provide £204 million of direct economic benefit to Exeter.
Exeter’s new flood defences will create over 1,000 jobs and protect businesses which employ 4,700 people. They will provide better protection of land for business development as well as major rail and sewerage infrastructure and over 2,000 homes.
Exeter suffered from severe flooding in 1960 when over 1,000 properties were flooded twice within a few months and the city was cut in half. A major flood alleviation scheme was subsequently designed and built (1965 to 1977) to defend the city against similar floods.
Recent studies have shown that the existing flood defences in Exeter only protect the city from a 1 in 40 year annual probability flood event. More extreme events could affect over 5,000 properties and critical infrastructure, and devastate the local economy. The Environment Agency therefore established a partnership with Exeter City Council and Devon County Council to jointly fund and promote an improvement scheme which would increase the level of protection up to a 1 in 100 annual probability event.
As a result of the re-assessment of the level of flood risk, the Environment Agency initiated a project in 2010 to promote a major improvement scheme. Following the 2011 launch of Defra’s new funding policy it became clear that significant external financial contributions would be needed to fund such a scheme.
‘The Exeter scheme will bring huge relief to homeowners and businesses that have lived with the fear of being flooded. This is also a message to the business community, as it is hoped that by building this flood defence scheme economic potential will be unlocked and jobs created in the city. Our priority is to do as much as we can with every pound of funding and the new partnership funding approach is bringing in new money to allow flood defences to go ahead that would have been unaffordable in the past,’ said George Arnison for the Environment Agency.
‘With one in six homes in England at risk of flooding, we would also encourage people to take their own steps to prepare for flooding, for example by signing up to the Environment Agency’s free flood warning service.’
Councillor Andrew Leadbetter, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Exeter, said: ‘With Exeter City, we've been pushing very hard to get this scheme up and running , even putting up £3 million each towards the project. The new defences will provide relief for hundreds of householders and businesses in Exeter. Devon County Council has already had officers helping to work up the scheme because we feel it is so important to the safety of so many Exeter residents.
I'm particularly pleased that this significant investment in Exeter will not only provide peace of mind for homes and businesses but also create more jobs and a further economic boost for the city.’
Exeter City Council Leader Pete Edwards, said:’It's great news that the government has recognised the threat that flooding has on the people of Exeter and unlocked the necessary funding to enable this crucial project to take place. The City Council and County Council had already committed a total of £6 million towards the scheme but this latest announcement allows these essential flood defences to be put in place sooner rather than later. After recent events we all know that a major flood could be just around the corner and that is something Exeter needs to prepare for. We will now work closely together to put these flood defences in place.’