On Tuesday I attended a virtual meeting of MPs who represent constituencies within the Severn River catchment area, from the Welsh hills of Powys to the Severn Estuary, to learn more about the Severn Valley Flood Risk Management Scheme. We met Environment Minister Rebecca Pow and were briefed by the Shropshire Council director who chairs the River Severn Partnership.
So much has happened in 2020 that it seems remarkable that it was only earlier this year that communities in South Shropshire were reeling from the devastating effects of flooding. For some households and businesses, this has meant the double effect of both flooding and COVID19 in one year – enough to test even the most resilient of us.
Fortunately Shropshire Council grants have been paid, both to those who suffered from rising floodwaters, and for those businesses affected by COVID19. But while this brings support to some, we need a proper plan to tackle flooding for the future across South Shropshire.
The good news is that the government announced this year significant increased investment to tackle flooding - with £5.2 billion to create around 2,000 new flood and coastal defences that will better protect 336,000 properties in England by 2027, alongside support to help households and businesses get back on their feet more quickly after flooding. Up to £170m of this has been brought forward to accelerate work on ‘shovel-ready’ flood defence schemes to begin construction in 2020 or 2021.
The catchment area around the River Severn, of which South Shropshire forms a part, is the largest beneficiary in terms of the latest funding announced. Up to £30m is being made available for the Severn Valley Flood Risk Management Scheme, to help protect homes, businesses, and important infrastructure like transport links from the effects of localised flooding. In further welcome news, an additional £4.9m for flood defences along the Teme will protect Tenbury Wells and Burford, and a further £4m will fund nature-based solutions and feasibility studies for larger schemes to help other communities manage water flows through innovative approaches.
At the meeting I stressed the Severn scheme must take into account the full catchment area – it is no good just pushing water from Shrewsbury or Ironbridge down the river. I made the point that the tributaries and water courses which feed in to the Severn, have also experienced severe flooding, which the Minister explicitly accepted. So I have called for more temporary or permanent flood defences to be available to flood-prone communities, through this welcome national focus on the River Severn Partnership.