£1bn-a-year needed for flood defences as climate warms, Environment Agency warns

Ccanoeists taking advantage of the floods in Beverley, East Yorkshire. The 2007 floods brought devastation to Sheffield and Hull.
Ccanoeists taking advantage of the floods in Beverley, East Yorkshire. The 2007 floods brought devastation to Sheffield and Hull.
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At least £1 billion a year needs to be spent on traditional flood and coastal defences in the face of climate change, the Environment Agency has said.

But Environment Agency chairwoman Emma Howard Boyd warned “we cannot win a war against water” by building ever-higher flood defences, and raised the prospect of communities having “to move out of harm’s way”in situations where threat levels are too high.

It came after the agency released its long-term strategy which plans for the potential of up to 4C of warming, well beyond the 1.5C or 2C limits agreed internationally.

The EA also predicts that climate change and population growth are set to double the number of properties built on the flood plain over the next 50 years.

Serious attention, and more than £100m of funding over five years, has been focussed on Hull, the city second most at risk of flooding outside London, following the flooding of 2007, which saw over 9,000 homes and businesses damaged and another 5,000 in the East Riding.

The tidal surge of 2013, which hit the East Coast, causing hundreds of millions of pounds damage, was another reminder of the level of threat. Only a few centimetres more would have seen much wider flooding, including in Hull.

Hull Council declared a “climate emergency” unanimously last month and director of regeneration Mark Jones said dealing with flood risk was “up there with HS2 and Crossrail”

He said: “We welcome that the Environment Agency has highlighted the real risks of flooding and the consequences of climate change.

“If they (the Government) are serious about addressing the consequences of climate change this is the kind of money they need to allocate.”

Leeds Council leader Coun Judith Blake said many businesses and residents were still dealing with the disastrous impact of the flooding that followed Storm Eva in 2015.

She said: “That is why we continue to call on government to fully fund our proposals to put in place the comprehensive flood prevention measures that this city deserves and needs.

“These plans include measures to increase the level of resilience across our communities as well as more traditional flood defence measures.”

Brigg and Goole MP Andrew Percy said long-term investment was needed which “survives the political whims of Governments of different colours.”

He added: “Climate change isn’t going to go away.”