The first ever long-term investment programme for flood risk was announced by the government last week. The £2.3 billion allocation for the next six years will allow us and local partners to better protect more than 300,000 properties by the end of the decade.
The plan means we will have £370m to spend in 2015 and 2016 and then the same again in real terms each year until 2020 and 2021. It is a record level of investment and gives us a great opportunity to tackle flood risk management in a way that we have not been able to before. So why is this different to how we've done things before?
By giving indicative allocations for this year and future years it gives greater certainty to partners and communities, will encourage more investment in schemes and gives construction companies greater certainty. It will also mean we will have more time to have quality conversations with communities and partners about how we make the programme happen. We can also work together to look for opportunities to bring other schemes forward into the programme.
Key to that will be attracting ‘partnership’ funding from private companies, local planning authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs). We are fortunate that the increasing success of partnership funding means projects that could not have previously gone ahead now can with the support of some government funding. This is a significant change to how funding is allocated, and means that communities have an even better opportunity to influence the flood schemes in their area.
The programme will be administered on the ground by local Regional Flood and Coastal Committees, which are made up of local residents, councillors and our staff. They oversee local contributions to the national programme and ensure local needs, priorities and interests are represented. They now have an exciting opportunity to work even more closely with partners and local communities over a longer period with more certainty of funding.
Our priority is always to do as much as possible with every pound of government and partnership funding, and the schemes in the six-year investment plan will make a real different to thousands of people who have been affected by, or who are at risk of, flooding.
But, even with this level of investment, you can never prevent flooding entirely. That is why we will continue to 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, or by making a flood plan if you know flooding is likely.
John Russon is Deputy Director of the Environment Agency's Flood Allocation Programme