David Cameron has pledged to spend whatever it takes to bring relief to Britain’s inundated villages, towns and fields. But with a backlog of hundreds of flood defence projects, which would protect nearly 100,000 homes, a similar open chequebook for flood prevention once the water subsides will entail a large bill.
Earlier this week, the chairman of the Environment Agency, Lord Smith, wrote in the Guardian that according to Treasury “rules”, any project must save £8 for every £1 it costs. The bar is high compared with other large capital projects in the UK. HS2, the high speed railway that has trilateral support across government and opposition, has been estimated to have a cost-benefit ratio of between 1.5 and 2.5 for example.
The flooding ratio is set by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which sets the bar according to its available resources. Due to huge demand, and limited resources (the department has been hit particularly hard by austerity cuts) only the most effective schemes receive full funding. Smith is implying that good projects are going unfunded because the budget is too low.
According to EA data, there are 477 projects, worth £2.2bn, that will not go ahead before 2019-20. These would offer increased protection for 97,000 homes.
An EA spokesperson said it was normal to have a backlog to some degree. But Colin Green from the Flood Hazard Research Centre said the backlog and the requirements for efficiency had been increasing with development.
“It used to be that a scheme would be undertaken if the ratio was six to one, with increasing pressure, particularly in terms of areas at risk of flooding, it’s gone up to eight to one before it will get funded,” he said.
Defra says capital investment in new flood and coastal erosion defences in 2014-15 will rise by £50m to £343.8m. There are currently 490,000 properties at risk of flooding in the UK. The EA says the government spend must increase to £1bn per year by 2035 just to stop the number of threatened properties rising. Polling this week showed an increase in public pressure for the government to spend more in this area.
Smith also spoke of making difficult choices in the future between homes and farmland, but limited funding may have already made that choice. In rural areas where there is less expensive infrastructure, the £8 limit is difficult to reach. Smith said rivers on the Somerset Levels had not been dredged because a cost-benefit analysis only allowed the EA to spend £400,000. This was not enough to make it viable because matched funding from private sources did not materialise. The government has now lifted these restrictions for the levels and budgeted £10m for additional flood defences in the area.
Flood defence projects often fail to meet the cost/benefit ratio set by Defra. Sometimes partnership funding from local authorities and businesses makes up the shortfall, but often they languish in the pipeline.
These are some of the projects on hold or rejected:
• A £190m scheme to protect Leeds from an estimated £450m of damage in the event of a major flood event on the River Aire was deemed too expensive by the EA.
• Tidal sluices proposed for the River Parrett in Somerset have had “significant uncertainty regarding funding” according to an EA report. Although this may change after Defra lifted the eight to one restrictions for the Somerset Levels.
• During December, 300 homes were flooded in Boston, Lincolnshire. The £90.2m Boston Tidal Barrier has been awaiting approval from Defra, despite local authority partnership funding having been secured. Work is expected to begin on the project in 2017, subject to approval.
• A £66m tidal barrier at Weymouth is stalled as the local authority tries to raise funding from businesses and developers in the town centre.
• The proposed £100m Oxford Flood Risk Management Strategy was only partially implemented. “Inadequate central government funding is the main stumbling block to further implementation of sorely needed measures,” said the Oxford Flood Alliance.
• The British Isles are tilting towards the south-east corner as the land readjusts to the loss of ice during the ice age. That means the high tide in London is rising by 75cm per century. The Lower Thames Flood Alleviation Scheme is designed to build on the existing protection of the Thames Barrier and protect 1.25 million people and £200bn worth of property. The EA is seeking partners to help fund the proposal.
- British PM warns of worsening floods crisis
- UK floods threaten to spread as blame game rages
- Britain gets respite from flooding crisis
- Thai floods may shift Japan investment to Indonesia, Vietnam
- UK warns may miss 2020 budget surplus target on Brexit World news
- UK warns may miss 2020 budget surplus target on Brexit
- Japan PM to pledge to boost incomes by 30 per cent: report
- Military wins in first Trump budget; environment, aid lose big
- In European tour Obama shows support for his closest allies
- Vietnam Economy 2008: Tough Challenges
- Vietnam scraps fireworks shows for New Year
- EU welcomes bold Turkey plan to stop migrants, defers decision
- Much Room For Maneuvering
- World leaders needed at talks to cut climate deal
- EU scrambles to fix grand euro bargain
- Farmers open homes to tourists
- Germany hits back at Trump over NATO after icy meeting
- Two tonnes of elephant tusks seized at Hai Phong port
- Tropical storm to hit East Sea
- EU puts divisions on display at latest jobs summit
How Cameron's flood spending pledge could swamp Treasury's targets have 902 words, post on www.theguardian.com at February 13, 2014. This is cached page on Health Breaking News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.