Environment Secretary confirms review into flooding funding formula as PM visits at-risk area

Environment Secretary George Eustice has said the Government is to launch a consultation on changes to the way funding is allocated for flood and coastal defences.

Speaking in the Commons today as the Prime Minister visited Manchester where residents are facing flooding, Mr Eustice confirmed plans reported by The Yorkshire Post last month.

Brigg and Goole Conservative MP Andrew Percy asked Mr Eustice to “comment on the adequacy of the flood defence funding rules for communities such as mine which are repeatedly now facing flooding issues or flood alerts and warnings”.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

And Mr Eustice replied: “I can tell him that we will shortly be issuing a consultation on some changes to the flooding formula and one of the things we want to better reflect is frequently flooded communities so that greater weight is placed on that.”

A person looking at their phone in front of floodwaters in York, ahead of Storm Christoph which is set to bring further flooding, gales and snow to parts of the UK. Heavy rain is expected to hit the UK, with the Met Office warning homes and businesses are likely to be flooded, causing damage to some buildings. Photo: PA

Speaking to this newspaper in December, Mr Eustice said: “We’ve got to recognise the frequency of flooding, where you have repeated flooding events occurring, that has to have a stronger bearing on the formula than it has to date.”

He said: “I think there is something very real here that if you’re in a community and find yourself flooded, almost year after year, it is incredibly soul destroying and demoralising that you go to your insurance company, you get your home put back together, you repair the damage, only to have it all happen again the following year.”

Dewsbury Tory MP Mark Eastwood told the Secretary of State that the River Calder yesterday burst its banks and cut off businesses and homes in Mirfield, a repeat of the “devastation” caused by Storm Ciara last year.

He urged Mr Eustice to take steps to avoid a repeat performance.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a visit to a storm basin near the River Mersey in Didsbury, Manchester, to view the flood defences put in place for Storm Christoph which has caused widespread flooding across the UK. Photo: PA

And Mr Eustice said: “Late last year we held a flood summit to discuss some of the particular challenges around the River Calder. There have been a number of important projects around that area, including at Hebden Bridge where construction I believe is well under way.

“There are further projects in the pipeline, and we continue to work with the Environment Agency on managing these water catchments effectively.”

Labour’s MP for Barnsley East Steph Peacock pushed Mr Eustice to “commit to holding an emergency flood summit that brings together agencies and regional leaders to make sure we have a coordinated response to support local communities”.

She said “a proactive rather than reactive approach to this crisis” was needed.

But Mr Eustice said: “We held a flood summit covering the South Yorkshire area shortly before Christmas later last year. I've also said that we want to hold a series of roundtable meetings around the country covering individual water catchments.”

On a visit to Didsbury, south Manchester to see the impact of Storm Christoph, Boris Johnson said: “We are very worried, obviously, about the risk of flooding every year.”

He thanked the Environment Agency for their “amazing preparations” and the effort to evacuate people overnight, but warned “there will be further rain overnight”.

The Prime Minister said the Environment Agency had used used sluice gates and “improvised emergency flood defences to protect homes”.

He said: “One idea that everybody in the Environment Agency talks about, and I believe in absolutely passionately, is planting trees on the higher ground to help absorb some of that rainfall, to help mitigate the effects of flooding.

“This Government has a very ambitious tree-planting programme, but, in my view, we’re not going fast enough.

“As the spring comes and we come out of the pandemic, we’re going to want to see a lot done to build in long-term resilience against flooding and against climate change, and planting trees is a big part of that.”

He said: "Be in no doubt, everybody who visits a flood area, anybody who has been through a flood knows the huge psychological, emotional and financial cost of flooding to people.”