Letwin challenged over flood defence spending

IMPROVED FLOOD defences will be essential if the Government wants to achieve its '˜northern powerhouse' ambitions, a minister has been told.

Oliver Letwin

Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Letwin was asked to fill the £20 million gap in the budget for flood defences in Sheffield as he visited the city.

Mr Letwin’s visit was part of a review of the country’s flood resilience launched in the wake of last winter’s floods with his findings expected in the summer.

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Sheffield suffered major flooding in 2007 and the city has developed a series of schemes to reduce the risk in the Lower Don Valley which together will cost between £40 and £50m.

The council argues the work is essential to protect both existing homes and businesses and to give developers confidence to build on key brownfield sites as part of the city’s economic plans.

Jim Fletcher, Sheffield City Council’s flood and water manager, said: “We all want the northern powerhouse to boost the economies of the North but clearly we need investment in essential infrastructure.

“The railway station is at risk of flooding from the River Sheaf. You can’t have a powerhouse with a station at risk and our programme will protect the station as well as key utilities infrastructure.”

Mr Letwin was shown where work has already been carried out to strengthen flood defences as well as the site for the Lower Don Valley projects.

The minister said: “An extra £700 million was announced in the Budget to boost flood defences and resilience across the nation, with £150 million of this pledged for Yorkshire and Cumbria.

“This huge investment will help improve our resilience but it needs to be spent in a way that will make the biggest impact.”