WHEN it comes to investment in flood defences, the Government has targeted money at those areas likely to be hardest hit by flooding events.

Our £2.6bn six-year programme of work, from 2015 to 2021, has exceeded its original targets and has protected over 314,000 homes nationally. More than 850 new flood and coastal erosion defence projects have been completed, and over 580,000 acres of agricultural land have been protected. Thousands of businesses, communities and major pieces of infrastructure are better defended from the effects of flooding, with a reduced national flood risk of around five per cent. It is estimated that the programme has saved the economy in the region of £28bn in avoided damage to homes and businesses.

Here in the North East, we have invested £75m in better protecting 6,500 homes. One of the most significant schemes we have funded is the Port Clarence and Greatham South project, which has increased flood protection to households in Port Clarence from the River Tees and Greatham Creek. It has also created new habitat the size of more than 90 football pitches for local wildlife, and it safeguards industrial processes in the Seal Sands complex, which contributes £2.5bn annually to the UK economy, so the benefits of this scheme are overwhelming.

The Government joined forces with local industry to build the scheme with multinational company Sabic UK contributing some of the funding and INOVYN ChlorVinyls offering land to allow the creation of the new habitat. This really is a great example of government, local government, the Environment Agency and the private sector working together to achieve the best possible outcome. The RSPB and Natural England have also been closely involved – the area is an internationally-designated habitat that includes rare birds and seals, and the new wildlife areas that have been created feature a new bird hide and a seal hide.

Combined with flood defences that were completed at Port Clarence in 2015, the project reduces the risk of flooding to 350 homes and 32 businesses in Port Clarence and the Seal Sands Industrial Complex.

Of course, we know that there is more to do – and that every property that floods is a property too many. That is why we have committed to doubling our investment in flood defences to £5.2bn in the 2021 to 2027 spending period. We have already announced the first tranche of schemes to benefit from this funding.

I also want to reiterate my commitment to supporting those areas that have experienced repeated flooding in recent years. We have already carried out a call for evidence to look at changes to the flood funding formula to help those communities that have been frequently flooded by strengthening the assessment of local circumstances when allocating funding. I will be saying more about this in the coming weeks.

We have made huge progress in the North East in the last six years, and I am determined that we will continue to do so.

  • George Eustice is the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs