Delays to £14million Plymouth and Tamar flood defences
A RAFT of planned flood defence schemes totalling around £14 million in Plymouth and across the Tamar face lengthy delays amid criticism of funding cuts.
The Government has given the go-ahead for work to start on two projects in the city worth £1.5 million that promise to provide better protection for nearly 200 homes.
But many others are not expected to get go-ahead before 2018 at the earliest, according to Whitehall.
While “likely” to eventually receive grant aid, they are deemed to need to cut costs, secure increased contributions, or improve the expected benefits, in order to proceed.
The hold-up is set to further fuel criticism of cutbacks to flood defence budgets, and raise concerns over the vulnerability of properties to rising water levels.
It comes in the wake of the recent flooding which caused widespread damage and disruption across Devon.
A £1 million scheme at Millbay Tanks was among those to get the green-light for work to start this year, aimed at helping safeguard 114 homes.
A £450,000 flood alleviation scheme at Marsh Mills is also to proceed, providing improved protection to 57 properties.
But many other projects face a delay of at least five years. These include a £1 million River Plym improvement project, and renovation work to Phoenix Wharf and West Hoe pier totalling more than £700,000.
Scores of Plymouth homes were left submerged in flood water following heavy downpours which have plagued the city since Christmas. Among the areas badly affected were Colebrook and Honicknowle where homeowners are still battling to repair the damage.
A list of projects in South East Cornwall are also not expected to go-ahead until at least 2018.
These include flood alleviation schemes at Looe and Gunnislake, worth £5.2 million and £1.7 million respectively.
A spokesman for the Department for Environment said: “These schemes are either still in their developmental stage or, as yet, do not deliver value for money in the number of homes and businesses they would protect.
“If costs can be reduced or value for money improved, these schemes may be able to proceed from next year.
“We’ve transformed the system to make clear how much Government money would be available for a flood defence scheme, if costs can be reduced or other funding found to meet the difference.
“We expect that 25 per cent more flood defences will go ahead thanks to this partnership funding approach.”
The spokesman added: “It is incorrect to say that the budget for flood defences has been cut.
“We are on course to spend over £2.3 billion on flood risk management and have brought in significant additional contributions from communities and businesses through our new funding system.”
In total, work will get underway on 93 flood defence projects this year as part of a £294million investment package, which also covers maintenance of existing schemes.
Those that will benefit include the £3.7 million Devon and Cornwall flood recovery 2012 schemes, and the £8.6 million Dawlish Warren and Exmouth beach management scheme.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said: “The 93 schemes given the green light will bring huge relief to tens of thousands of homes and businesses that have lived with the fear of flood waters hitting their doors.”
But Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary Mary Creagh said: “Flooding is the biggest threat the UK faces from climate change, yet the Government will spend less on flood defences next year than Labour invested in 2008. Every £1 invested in flood defences saves £8 later and prevents untold human misery.”
She added: “Flood-hit communities are growing ever more anxious over the availability and affordability of flood insurance once Labour’s deal with the insurance industry expires in June.