South Yorkshire's pioneering £400m flood protection plan to mitigate climate change revealed

A pioneering £400m plan to better protect thousands of homes and businesses from severe flooding in South Yorkshire is being launched as the region prepares for more intense rainfall as a result of climate change.

The Connected by Water Action Plan is being launched today by South Yorkshire mayor Dan Jarvis and Floods Minister Rebecca Pow.

It is being launched in the hope of preventing a repeat of the devastating flooding that hit the region in 2019, centred on the village of Fishlake.

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The plan states: “The stark reality is that climate change is leading to rising sea levels and wetter winters with more intense rainfall.

Fishlake suffered devastating flooding in November 2019. Picture: Tom Maddick/SWNSFishlake suffered devastating flooding in November 2019. Picture: Tom Maddick/SWNS
Fishlake suffered devastating flooding in November 2019. Picture: Tom Maddick/SWNS

“All factors that will increase the risk of flooding from the rivers, surface water and the public sewer network across South Yorkshire. If we’re to meet this challenge and reduce both the risk and impact of flooding in the future, we cannot stand still.

“Unless we do more, our communities will struggle to cope with the increasingly catastrophic impacts of more frequent and severe floods.”

Local councils, the Environment Agency, Yorkshire Water and other organisations have formed a partnership to create the action plan, which combines 144 actions and 100 flood alleviation projects with a total investment of £400m to better protect over 17,000 homes and businesses across South Yorkshire.

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But the report does make clear there is currently a £211m funding shortfall for the proposed work, with £153m committed by Government so far and a further £34m in partnership funding.

Flooding in Fishlake in November 2019. Picture: Simon HulmeFlooding in Fishlake in November 2019. Picture: Simon Hulme
Flooding in Fishlake in November 2019. Picture: Simon Hulme

Speaking in his capacity as Barnsley Central MP, Mr Jarvis asked in Parliament yesterday whether the Government would commit to the £76m needed in the next six years for the Environment Agency’s Medium Term Investment Plan.

Ms Pow said: “I think he will agree that we have done a great deal for his area to help sort the flooding out and more work will continue.”

She said today that the action plan “is a crucial step forward in improving the climate resilience of communities across South Yorkshire, which I hope will avoid a repeat of the devastating impact the November 2019 flooding had on people and businesses across the region.

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“This plan is part of our record £5.2bn investment over the next six years to better protect 336,000 properties across England and build on the 66,000 homes in Yorkshire already better protected since 2015.”

Mr Jarvis said: “After the devastating floods across South Yorkshire, I fought for government funding to protect us from a repeat of the scenes we saw in 2019 – securing £80m which has helped towards the launch of today’s flood catchment plan to protect the region.

“This ‘living plan’ will continue to evolve based on what we learn over the coming months and years, but it will always ensure that we protect homes and businesses across South Yorkshire from the devastating impact of flooding.

“A key part of this is using natural solutions to cut flood risk, like tree planting and land management, because it doesn’t just tackle flooding, it helps with nature recovery and gets us closer to our target of Net Zero carbon emissions by 2040 at the latest.

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“Climate change is leading to increased rainfall and rising sea levels which hugely increase flood risks, but by introducing nature-based solutions to the mix we can break the cycle.”

Emma Howard Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency, said: “In the autumn of 2019, I spoke to farmers and communities whose lives had been turned upside down by the South Yorkshire floods. For every £1 spent on flood protection we avoid around £5 in property damages.

“As climate shocks accelerate, the Connected by Water Action Plan will help secure investment to better protect thousands of properties and key economic and transport infrastructure.”

Consultation launched on plan

An online consultation on the plan is being launched to get public feedback.

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Liz Barber, chief executive of Yorkshire Water, is among those supporting the programme.

She said: “We’re looking forward to continuing our partnership approach to flood alleviation, with the Connected by Water partnership.

“The potential of this partnership goes way beyond benefits for one area or organisation, it’s about delivering wider benefits for all of our customers in South Yorkshire.”

The consultation will run until March 11 and can be accessed on the Environment Agency website.

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