The Government has been urged not to spread money for flood defence schemes too thinly as another funding scheme is announced.
Defra says it is making £150million available under its Flood and Coastal Resilience Innovation Programme for exploring new approaches and testing innovative solutions to threats from inland flooding and coastal change.
The money is on top of its planned £5.2bn investment over the next six years in flood and coastal defences which will better protect 336,000 more properties across the country.
But Bridgwater and West Somerset Conservative MP Ian Liddell-Grainger says ministers must give assurances that new schemes will not be financed by diverting funds from known major flood risk areas such as the Somerset Levels – scene of the worst inland floods this century in 2013 and 2014.
Defra says one scheme – in Devon – has already won approval for support from the new programme but no further details of potential funding allocations have been released.
But Mr Liddell-Grainger – many of whose constituents had to be evacuated from their homes because of the Levels flooding – says while it still made sense to look for innovative solutions to flooding it should not be done at the expense of spending in already-identified problem areas.
“One really wonders how much more there is to learn about flood management, given the plethora of studies and the volume of research which has already been carried out –all of which are available for the government to access,” he said.
“The major lesson the Government was taught as a result of what happened on the Levels is that the price of cutting back on proven maintenance and protection is disaster.
“And it worries me when I still hear ministers parroting the discredited Environment Agency line about dredging not necessarily representing value for money.
“There are huge areas of this countryside where traditional methods are still used to keep flood waters at bay using techniques which have proved their worth over centuries and which we discard at our peril,” he said.
“Looking for innovative answers and drawing up new strategies may provide headline-grabbing announcements. But Defra must not ignore its fundamental obligation to continue financing flood defence and protection work in places where the problems and risks have been recognised in some cases for hundreds of years.”