In the Windsor constituency we are well aware of the devastating impact that floods can have on people homes, lives and livelihoods.
Almost every winter the River Thames swells and our flood defences are tested. Three years ago we watched with alarm as the gauges on the Thames reached the highest levels recorded since their introduction as we were hit by serious winter floods.
Adam Afriyie (Windsor, Conservative): To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what recent progress has been made in deregulating the consent process for river maintenance pilots; and what plans she has to start new pilot schemes (a) along the Thames in Berkshire and (b) elsewhere.
Dan Rogerson (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for water, forestry, rural affairs and resource): On 10 December 2014, Defra launched a consultation on proposals to integrate flood defence consents into the Environmental Permitting framework. The new scheme will simplify the application process while removing unnecessary costs and burdens for those who wish to carry out construction works or other activities in, or near, main rivers.
The River Maintenance Pilots (which explore how red tape could be reduced for landowners who wish to undertake maintenance in man-made ditches, land drains or previously straightened watercourses that had been dredged in the last ten years) were launched by the Environment Agency in October 2013 and were scheduled to last for one year. In response to interest shown by local farmers, the pilots were expanded in May 2014 to include two new pilot areas, and expand an existing area. To allow those affected by the 2013/14 floods extra time to carry out their work, the pilots were also extended until mid-March 2015. We will consider the evidence from the pilots when they are complete.
In addition, the Environment Agency and National Farmers Union are launching a new local initiative across rural Oxfordshire to help landowners along tributaries of the River Thames with the consenting process. This initiative will start in 2015/16 and it is likely to expand into Berkshire and Buckinghamshire.
Adam Afriyie (Conservative, Windsor): To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps she has taken to improve flood defences in the Thames Valley in 2014.
Dan Rogerson (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for water, forestry, rural affairs and resource management): Since the 2013/14 winter flooding, over £3 million has been spent on work to restore flood defence assets in the Thames Valley and Surrey areas to help reduce the risk of flooding to communities. This has included completing eight flood defence repair projects and capital works on two weirs (Molesey and Godstow). The Environment Agency has also carried out repairs to damage on three Thames weirs, including removal of trees and blockages, and shoal clearance works across twenty sites through the Lower Thames.
During this year, the Environment Agency has also made progress in developing two large-scale flood alleviation schemes:
- The Oxford to Abingdon scheme, reducing flood risk to over 1,000 properties; and
- The River Thames scheme, reducing flood risk to over 15,000 homes and businesses and significant local infrastructure around Teddington to Datchet.
An indicative allocation of £297m of Grant in Aid has been allocated to projects within the Thames RFCC are over the next 6 years. These projects will better protect at least 25,000 households by 2021. It is planned to start the construction of 36 projects by April 2016 with a further 126 projects in development and the pipeline for construction in future years.
Adam Afriyie (Windsor, Conservative): To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate he has made of how many properties at risk of flooding in (a) Windsor constituency and (b) the Thames Valley that will not be covered by the new Flood Re scheme.
Dan Rogerson (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defra): The assessment of the impact the scope of the Flood Re Scheme will have was done at a UK level. There was no specific assessment for individual constituencies or regions.
This morning Adam Afriyie MP has welcomed the publication of the DEFRA Select Committee report on the winter floods.
Adam Afriyie, MP for Windsor, said:
Adam at a Parliamentary event to discuss flooding
“This review is right to praise the Government for releasing extra funds to clear-up the damage caused by this year’s floods. It is also right to warn against neglecting capital investment in proper flood protection.
“If we’re going to secure the Thames Valley, and the rest of Britain, against flooding in the long-term, we must make sure that capital funding is in place for durable flood protection schemes, like the Lower Thames Scheme.
“Prevention is key, and in the long-run these schemes will save money for taxpayers, businesses and homeowners.
“The Environment Agency and local councils in the Thames Valley, and around the country, must now hammer out funding deals for these capital schemes. I would urge the Select Committee to look at the mechanics of these partnership funding deals in the future. Some of them seem to be taking too long to sign to the detriment of local communities.
“In the short-term, measures must be taken to make sure that watercourses are running at maximum capacity and I welcome the Committee’s suggestions on ground drainage and dredging.”
Notes to Editors
- Mr Afriyie’s website: http://www.adamafriyie.org/.
Copy of the DEFRA Select Committee report: http://www.publications. parliament.uk/ pa/cm201415/cmselect/cmenvfru/240/240.pdf