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Shropshire floods: Leader backs call for long-term flood plan

Bridgnorth | News | Published:

Calls for a long-term plan to tackle flooding were today welcomed by a leader in Shropshire.

A parliamentary group has told the Government it must not simply "react" to flooding events with long wet winters getting more common.

The Environmental Audit Committee, a House of Commons group made up of MPs from across the country, has warned of a "lack of long-term strategic planning" to protect communities at risk of flooding, saying such communities "deserve certainty from government".

The government's Environment Department has said a six-year capital investment programme for flood defences will bring an end to year-on-year fluctuations in funding.

Flood waters submerge footpaths in Shrewsbury town centre
Flooding in Shrewsbury

Councillor Alan Mosley, leader of the Shrewsbury Town Council, said: "Thankfully we haven't had a major flood event in the town for many years. However, we must always be be thinking about the longer term potential for serious flooding. It will be interesting to look at the proposals to see how Shrewsbury might be protected in the future and make sure we get our share of funding."

Flood defences in the town were being raised and lowered, and opening and closing car parks around the start of the year are now an almost annual occurrence.

The worst flooding in Shropshire took place along the River Severn, with defences also raised in Ironbridge while roads and homes were affected all the way from Welshpool to Bridgnorth.

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Rivers such as the Teme were not as badly swollen by the rain but some homes and gardens were still affected along its course. A new group has been set up to keep an eye on flood risk around Ludlow while as recently as this week parts of the Midlands were hit by flash floods after torrential downpours followed days of dry hot weather.

The Environmental Audit Committee's chairwoman Mary Creagh said in the face of more frequent and intense flooding because of climate change "it just isn't good enough" for the Government to react to events as they occur.

Government funding for flood defences was initially cut during the last parliament and only increased in reaction to floods in winter 2013/14, the committee's report said. It also found the condition of flood defences had declined due to cuts in money to maintain them while local councils were not getting enough support to develop plans to deal with flooding.

The Government has committed to spend £2.3 billion on building new defences and to protect spending on maintaining existing defences.

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But the MPs warned they were "sceptical" the Government would reach its target of protecting 300,000 properties saying it was based on an optimistic forecast that assumed the greatest efficiency in spending decisions.

The committee said it was surprised to learn the extra £700 million funding for flood defences announced in this year's Budget was based on a "political calculation" and may not be allocated with the same strict economic criteria as the £2.3 billion.

This could lead to inefficiencies in flood investments, poor decision-making and outcomes that were potentially unfair to some regions, the report said.

Ms Creagh said: "We know flooding is projected to get worse and and occur more frequently because of climate change, so it just isn't good enough for government to react to flooding events as they occur. Communities at risk deserve certainty from government. The Government needs to put money into the upkeep of existing flood defences as well as investing in new defences.

"Failure to do so can have terrible consequences for residents and businesses when defences fail. Any decline in the condition of critical flood defences represents an unacceptable risk to local communities in flood prone areas."

She also urged the Government to have almost all critical defences meeting the "required" condition by 2019.

Peter Box, environment spokesman for the Local Government Association, said councils were at the sharp end of dealing with flooding and doing everything they could to protect communities and reduce risks to residents. He said: "However, we agree with the committee that councils need to be better supported by government. New measures that could make a positive difference include devolving new flood defence funding to local areas, further incentives for private sector investment in flood defences and mandatory flood-proof requirements for new homes and offices.

An Environment Department spokesman said its six-year capital investment programme for flood defences would bring an end to year-on-year fluctuations in spending so communities could have certainty in future funding.

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