Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
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Benn allocates initial funding in response to Pitt report

Benn allocates initial funding in response to Pitt report

DEPARTMENT FOR ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS News Release (News Release ref : 473/08) issued by The Government News Network on 25 June 2008

Secretary of State for the Environment, Hilary Benn, has today announced the areas that he will allocate initial funding to, in light of Sir Michael Pitt's final report into the summer floods.

In response to the report Hilary Benn said:

"I welcome Sir Michael's report and the direction it sets. I will deliver a detailed response on behalf of Government that includes a prioritised action plan in the autumn. Before this, I am today taking action to help the country be better prepared to deal with the impacts of flooding.

"Earlier this year I outlined that at least £34.5 million of the £2.15 billion total Government flood and coastal erosion spend over the next three years would be allocated to implement the final recommendations of Sir Michael Pitt's report. Today I can announce that part of this funding will be used to take forward work in several key areas including: assisting the development of surface water management plans in high priority areas, improving reservoir safety and an initial contribution to a major national floods exercise to ensure we are better prepared for the future."

The funding that will be allocated following the announcement today is:

* At least £5 million for the development of Surface Water Management Plans in the highest priority areas;

* At least £1 million to take forward mapping work to improve reservoir safety;

* An initial £250,000 to plan a major national floods exercise to test the new structures and roles put in place to ensure the country is better prepared to deal with future flooding events.

The Government will also develop a Long Term Investment Strategy for flood defence with the Environment Agency.

Mr Benn continued:

"The lives of people and businesses were turned upside down by last summer's floods, and the human and financial costs will be felt for some time to come. The first anniversary today will be a difficult time for many of those who have lost loved ones, as well as the communities who are still trying to recover. The actions we are taking now and in the future in response to this important final report will go a long way to ensuring we are better prepared to deal with future events. We can never eliminate the risk of flooding, particularly as climate change takes hold. But all of us - Government, water and electricity providers, local communities, and individuals - must take flood risk seriously and be as prepared as we can to deal with it. Sir Michael's report will help us all to do so."

In the last year Defra has overseen work by other Government departments and agencies to improve the country's preparedness to deal with flooding events in several key areas, including:

* The Environment Agency's flood warning service will now automatically register properties to receive flood warnings where telephone numbers are publicly available. Since last June over 73,000 more people have registered with the Agency's flood warning system.

* Delivering improved management of surface water flooding, in the forthcoming draft Floods and Water Bill by giving the Environment Agency the Strategic Overview of all inland flooding, with local authorities taking the lead on the ground for surface water flooding.

* The electricity industry has identified just over 1,000 grid and primary sites which are in flood zones, and is working with the Environment Agency to see which of these might need additional protection.

* Every water company is reviewing how its critical assets may be at risk from flooding in order to prioritise investment plans. This information will be used as the basis of a planned nationwide programme to improve the resilience of critical infrastructure which Government will produce later on this year. The majority of Local Resilience Forums have been briefed on critical infrastructure in their area, and the remainder will be done by the end of August.

* The Environment Agency has spent £5 million on repairing defences damaged last summer. Current improvement schemes include a £5.9 million project refurbishing the Hull barrier and remedial works on the culverts in Gloucester.

* Proposals to provide a Government grant to help people bear some of the costs involved with implementing such measures, will also form the basis of a public consultation in a few weeks time.

* Tightening up reservoir safety through flood maps for reservoirs that come under the Reservoir Act, which will be provided to local emergency planners before the end of 2009 if they are not already available. Measures to modernise reservoir safety legislation will be outlined in the forthcoming draft Floods and Water Bill.

* The Government will produce an outline for the National Flood Emergency Framework by the end of July, with a draft for consultation by the end of the year. This will be part of a major programme to improve preparedness for severe flooding.

Sir Michael Pitt will be invited to attend the relevant Cabinet Committee discussions on Government progress.

NOTES TO EDITORS

1.The Pitt Review final report can be found at: http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/pittreview

2. Hilary Benn's written ministerial statement in response to the report can be found at: http://www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/ministers/statements/default.asp

3. The Government is increasing investment in flood risk management from £650 million this year to £800 million in 2010-11. Environment Agency managed defences protected 100,000 properties from flooding last year, and this new investment will protect a further 145,000 homes across the country.

4. Hilary Benn announced on 12 July that Government would be conducting its own lessons learned review and on 8 August Sir Michael Pitt was announced as independent chair to lead the review. The review was set up to examine both how to reduce the risk and impact of floods, and the emergency response to the floods in June and July.

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