£13m needed from Government for world-leading flood resilience centre in Scunthorpe

A united call for the Government to invest £13m in a National Flood Resilience Centre in the Humber region has been made ahead of the Budget next month.

National and local politicians, as well as academics, have come together to make the case for Ark, a project led by the University of Hull and Humberside Fire and Rescue Service, which supporters say will be the first centre of its kind anywhere in the world.

The centre would give a space for emergency services to undertake simulated training in urban and rural flooding, taking advantage of a 120-metre long street scene and water rapids course.

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And it is also envisioned as a world-leading research centre.

CGI image of flood training at The Ark. Photo: University of Hull

Professor Dan Parsons, Director of the Energy and Environment Institute at the University of Hull, said recent flooding in the region showed more than ever why the project was vital.

He said: “The impacts of climate change are being seen right now. “The devastating impact of storms Ciara and Dennis over recent weeks highlight the need for greater understanding, and more effective responses and recovery to severe flood events.

“Ark will prove to be a game-changer in how we tackle and recover from these events, which are only going to get worse as we suffer the consequences of climate change.”

A joint bid has been put together from the unversity and fire service, backed by North Lincolnshire Council, and ahead of the Budget on March 11 efforts have been intensified to turn support into confirmation that the up-front capital funding required - £13m from Government - will be made available.

CGI image of flood training at The Ark. Photo: University of Hull

Andrew Percy, MP for Brigg and Goole, raised the matter directly with the new Environment Secretary George Eustice in the House of Commons on Monday.

He said: “My constituency is largely on land recovered by Dutch engineers and is therefore probably the most flood-prone constituency in the country.

“I urge the Secretary of State, given the particular risk that we have in my area, to look very closely at the proposal for a national flood resilience centre in Scunthorpe.

“The council has done its part in providing the land. The University of Hull and the Humberside fire service are providing funding.

“We need the Government to step up and provide funding so that we have a proper national centre.”

And Mr Eustice admitted yesterday: “With climate change we are getting more frequent extreme weather events.”

He said: “This has been an incredibly wet winter, and we’ve had a wet winter and then two consecutive storms, Ciara and Dennis, and there’s nowhere for the water to go.”

He said the Government had spent £2.5bn on flood defences, but said there is more to do.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has estimated around 20 per cent of the world’s population will be at risk of flooding by 2050 due to climate change.

In the UK alone, 5.2m homes and businesses are already at risk. The Environment Agency has also recognised a national shortfall in the high-level skills needed to plan and adapt to our changing climate.

Supporters say Ark will support a suite of education programmes aimed at addressing this gap, including a new Masters programme in Flood Risk Management at the University from September 2020.

The Humber region is one of the most at risk of flooding of anywhere in the UK, with major flood events in the recent past.

And the University of Hull’s research into the Hull floods of 2007 was incorporated into the Pitt Review, which has set UK flood policy over the past decade.

North Lincolnshire Council would provide the site for Ark, close to Scunthorpe, and council leader Rob Waltham said: "Local residents will remember the devastating flooding of December 2013 and this research facility will help to ensure that communities and business can be better prepared when flooding occurs.

"This would be a significant investment in Scunthorpe and North Lincolnshire and I am confident that an international research centre such as this will bring a whole sector of supply industries that could also see hundreds of well-paid jobs too."

Steve Topham, Director of Service Support at Humberside Fire and Rescue Service, said: "We know from experience just how essential it is to provide an effective emergency response in the event of flooding.

"The Ark will give fire and rescue services across the country, together with all the other responding agencies, a facility where we can prepare in a much more realistic way, as well as having access to a wealth of research and innovation power."