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Increase agreed for funding for flood defence projects

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: January 29, 2013

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A 20% rise in local funding for flood defence projects reflects the need to address the "backlog" of schemes in the Westcountry.

The Environment Agency's South West Regional Flood and Coastal Committee, which is made up of local authority representatives from across Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, agreed to increase its contribution to £721,000 next year.

The money will be raised through an existing levy on council tax and will be used to deliver important local projects and develop new schemes to compete for funding from Government.

Projects totalling more than £30 million are currently listed on the present "local levy" programme. Every £1 raised locally can generate between £3-6 of funding from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Committee chairman James Morrish said: "The increase of 20% is a clear statement of the committee's determination to address the backlog of flood defence needs in Devon, Cornwall, Plymouth, Torbay and the Isles of Scilly, particularly following the repeated flooding throughout 2012 which saw over 1,000 properties flooded in 200 locations.

"In these difficult financial times I am pleased that the local authorities have seen the need to support reducing flood and coastal erosion risk.

"The councils in our region are leading the way in making reducing flood risk a real priority and recognising the essential need to increase funding.

"The programmes that we will be delivering next year cover all sources of flooding and have had to be prioritised to match available funds.

"This funding decision shows the commitment and recognition that councils in the South West are putting on helping reduce flood risk in local communities."

Homes and businesses across the Westcountry were devastated by flooding last year in what proved to be one of the wettest years since records began.

And while the increase in local funding has been regarded as good news, it follows cuts in flood defence spending imposed by Government.

Earlier this month, it was warned that a 25% cut in maintenance grants could expose more properties in Devon and Cornwall to flooding and reduce the life span of defences.

Ben Johnstone, the Environment Agency's flood and coastal erosion risk programme manager in the South West, outlined how the maintenance budget had been cut from £3.33 million this year to £2.51 million next year.

His report to the committee warned that less maintenance "may reduce the standards of protection provided some of our schemes, thereby putting more properties at risk of flooding". It could also result in flood defences being damaged, Mr Johnstone said, with "no guarantee of repair" in the short term.

The decision on the local levy was agreed earlier this month and the list of flood defence projects to be funded will be confirmed at the Environment Agency board meeting, on February 8.

Read more from Exeter Express and Echo

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  • omnivore23  |  January 29 2013, 7:08PM

    Well yes - certainly stop building on flood risk areas. Problem is - the extent of the areas at risk of flooding is expanding all the time - and lots and lots of people are already living in areas at risk of flooding.

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  • waynejkc69  |  January 29 2013, 4:06PM

    Or you could build houses on higher ground. Not rocket science.

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