MPs’ report prompts calls for more cash to protect Norfolk coast from flooding

Floods. Walcott damage after the sea surges.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Floods. Walcott damage after the sea surges.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Campaigners are calling for massive spending increases to tackle the threat from flooding after a group of MPs recommended sweeping changes to counter the challenge.

Flooding in Great Yarmouth near the Haven Bridge. Photo: Paul Hewitt

Flooding in Great Yarmouth near the Haven Bridge. Photo: Paul Hewitt - Credit: Archant

A report published by the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee is proposing a new National Floods Commissioner to respond to the risks posed by climate change.

Members also call for the creation of regional and coastal boards and a new English Rivers and Coastal Authority, taking on responsibility for national flood risk management from the Environment Agency.

However, the proposals were criticised by Coastal Concern Action Group chairman Malcolm Kerby.

Mr Kerby, who has waged a long-running campaign to protect Happisburgh from coastal erosion said: “The one thing this all hinges on is lack of funding.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

“The Environment Agency has done some tremendous work – they know what needs to be done but never get the funding.

“When I started campaigning 18 years ago, the cost benefit of every pound spent had to be 1:1 now it is 1:8.

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“Funding is one third the level of 10 years ago and the problem has exacerbated since then. The government needs to be spending at least double its current budget on flood defence.”

He added: “There has been a huge bias towards river flood defences and there is nothing to suggest that will not continue. Shifting around the chiefs and creating new empires is not the answer.”

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb called for a solidarity fund to protect people living in high risk flood areas against the risk of losing their homes

He said: “Insufficient investment in sea defences and no rights for homeowners in coastal areas for compensation are a poisonous mix.

“Getting organisational structure right is important and a more coherent approach is sensible, but we need to right the injustice that coastal communities bear the impact of global warming.

“We need to think about some sort of solidarity fund to protect people at flood risk areas to protect them against the loss of their homes.”

Marie Strong, Flood and Coastal Management Working Group chairman, endorsed the call for greater investment in flood defences.

The Wells Division county councillor said: “There is definitely a need for more investment. Coastal flooding is the biggest danger for this county. We be need to adapt to the growing risk of flooding inland as well.”

New regional flood and coastal boards would take the lead role from the local flood authority and regional flood and coastal committees if the proposals are adopted by the government. Ministers now have two months to provide a response to the recommendations.

Committee chairman Neil Parish said: “We propose a radical alternative to the government’s National Flood Resilience Review’s limited solutions to the current fragmented, inefficient and ineffective flood risk management arrangements.

“Our proposed model would streamline roles and pool expertise to allow bodies to deliver their unique roles.

“New regional boards would enable a close link between national plans and local aims.”

The report also calls for the use of natural measures to tackle flooding including leaky dams, tree planting, improved soil management and using areas of farmland to store flood water.