Natural management is ‘vital’ as well as other flood defences says environment secretary
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) will spend £15m on natural flood management projects, the environment secretary has announced.
On Thursday, Andrea Leadsom confirmed to parliament that, although flood defences such as concrete barriers are “very important”, natural flood management is “vital” as well.
In response to a question from former environment minister Richard Benyon, who took a keen interest in water management issues during his time in office, Leadsom said Defra would invest £15m to further its natural flood management approaches.
The money was allocated as part of the Autumn Statement on 23 November.
Natural flood management had already been promised as a major part of England’s catchment management plans, including measures such as tree planting, blanket bog restoration, allowing rivers to meander and bank management, as well as high street pumps and highways engineers looking at drainage.
But critics have repeatedly called for proper funding and a more holistic approach. During its ongoing national flood resilience review, Defra received a range of evidence including on the importance of natural approaches.
More recently the environment, farming and rural affairs committee asked Defra to commission a large trial to gauge the effectiveness of natural flood risk management approaches such as the instillation of leaky dams, tree planting and improved soil management.
Defra said details of how and when the funding will be used will come “in due course … but it is worth noting already many of our flood defence investment covers projects using natural flood management measures”.
Friends of the Earth climate campaigner Guy Shrubsole said it was “fantastic news”, which communities, scientists and campaigners have been asking for for years.
“It is of course only just the start – the prospect of dangerous climate change demands we urgently slash the carbon emissions driving up flooding, as well as radically rethinking our relationship to the land. Next, the government must drastically reform farm subsidies; ending hand-outs to landowners who keep our uplands bare of trees, and instead pay farmers to provide public goods, like reducing flooding.”
Angela Francis, senior economist at Green Alliance, said the new money should used as an innovation fund to support catchment-scale trials of natural management approaches. “This is the only way we can understand how cost effective it could be in preventing and managing floods.”