£25 million will be invested in projects that use nature to protect communities from flooding, Environment Minister Rebecca Pow announced today (22 September).
The ring-fenced funding, provided by the Government and the Environment Agency, will support natural flood management schemes across England that use techniques such as planting trees and creating wetlands to slow and store water to reduce the risk of flooding. These schemes are also proven to improve air and water quality, provide habitats for wildlife and create green spaces for communities.
This new funding builds on the £15m natural flood management pilot programme which ran until 2021. Across the 60 pilot projects supported by this programme, the equivalent of 1.6 million cubic metres of water storage was created and 15,000 homes were better protected from flooding, while 4,000 hectares of habitat and 610 kilometres of river were improved and 100 hectares of woodland were planted.
The £25 million will also help harness the power of nature and support the Environment Agency’s FCERM Strategy, which provides a longer-term vision of how we will create climate-resilient places and better protect and prepare homes and businesses from flooding and coastal change.
Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: “Nature is an essential weapon in our armoury against flooding. Enhancing the natural landscape to slow rivers and hold flood water works hand-in-hand with the bricks and mortar protection we are building with our £5.2 billion flood programme.
“That is why we are driving investment to harness the power of nature. This approach not only reduces flood risk and helps tackle climate change, it can also benefit water quality, restore habitats and boost biodiversity. Natural flood management is a win-win-win.”
Environment Agency chair Alan Lovell said: “In the face of a changing climate, and with the frequency and severity of flooding only likely to get worse, we need to act now.
“The pioneers who already work with nature-based solutions to achieve greater flood resilience give me hope. I am delighted this new Natural Flood Management Programme will be open to environmental groups, catchment partnerships, farmers, landowners, and local authorities to speed up more investment in natural flood management.
“Natural flood management gives us so many wider benefits and I look forward to seeing projects coming forward that also help to create habitats for wildlife, support better river quality, and sequester carbon.”
Projects supported by the £15m pilot include the Dorking Natural Flood Management Scheme, instigated after Pipp Brook in the Surrey Hills flooded due to its steep slopes. The partners created ‘wet woodland’ that benefits biodiversity and 30 ‘leaky barriers’ that allow water to spill into the natural floodplain, stopping too much water flooding into Dorking.
In Warwickshire, Shipston Area Flood Action Group, a community-led volunteer team, reduced the risk of flooding for homes and businesses by using natural flood management across the River Stour. Having started putting measures in place in 2017, the group now has more than 700 leaky barriers and ponds to slow the flow of water during heavy rainfall, reducing the flood risk to 17 villages and towns. The project was supported by £275,000 of Government funding. This scheme won the Environment Agency Flood and Coast Excellence 2021 Award for Community Partnership.
Elsewhere, the South East Rivers Trust and the London Borough of Sutton worked in partnership to install sustainable urban drainage systems within six schools in the area, including gardens to absorb rain running off school buildings. This helped reduce the flood risk to the schools and other properties and improve the water quality of the River Wandle, a chalk stream. The South East Rivers Trust was awarded £92,000 as part of the programme.
The new funding is available to environmental non-governmental organisations, businesses, farmers, catchment partnerships, flood risk management authorities and community groups.
Successful projects will cover a large enough area to provide demonstrable flood risk benefits. The Environment Agency will manage the programme. Expressions of interest open today (22 September 2023) and will close on 10 November 2023. Projects will be delivered during 2024-27.
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