Bassetlaw District Council and the Environment Agency have met this week to discuss the devastating floods that hit Bassetlaw in October and the need for the funding of future flood mitigation schemes to change.
Data provided by the Environment Agency showed that Storm Babet was the wettest three-day period on record in the Midlands, which also led to record river levels across Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Lincolnshire and Leicestershire.
Bassetlaw District Council and its Leader, Cllr James Naish, had previously called on the Environment Agency to meet with members and officers to discuss scrapped flood alleviation schemes, funding challenges and the mitigation measures that need to be put in place to limit future flooding across the district.
This week, senior regional and national officials from the Environment Agency visited some of the most flood-hit areas of Worksop and Retford to see first-hand the impact of localised flooding. This was followed-up by a meeting between the Council and the Environment Agency’s Chief Executive to discuss removing blockers to meaningful investment.
Cllr James Naish said: “We had two productive meetings where we were able to discuss our experiences of historic flooding and visit the areas of Bassetlaw that are frequently flooded. Bassetlaw residents and businesses need to see urgent action and it was good to hear that Environment Agency colleagues, who have done a great job operationally, still want to see alleviation schemes come forwards. They still believe there are schemes that can make a difference.”
A total of £11.7m of potential schemes across Bassetlaw were put forward in 2021/22, to be delivered over a five-year period, and this was increased to £27m in 2022/23. However, HM Treasury rules mean that this money is not available until full business cases have been submitted, which take into account land and property values versus the cost of providing the scheme. In Bassetlaw’s case, due to comparatively low land and property values, the value for money threshold is typically missed – despite frequent flooding and considerable damage being caused to personal and business property.
In June 2021, Bassetlaw was set to receive initial funding for the Retford Beck Flood Mitigation Scheme, which has subsequently been withdrawn despite £250,000 being allocated by Bassetlaw District Council and £170,000 being allocated by Nottinghamshire County Council. Land was also purchased by the District Council in anticipation of approval.
Cllr Naish added: “It is clear the funding formulas and approaches need to change to make large investment schemes viable in Bassetlaw. Bassetlaw houses, businesses and land are worth saving just as much as anywhere else, especially given the frequency with which lives are being disrupted.
“The Environment Agency is ultimately responsible for flood protection schemes on main watercourses like the River Ryton and the River Idle, but the broken funding system means its interventions are currently limited to routine maintenance. We want that to change, and I know Environment Agency staff want to see the same.
“We are increasing our efforts to explain to politicians how the system needs to change to help places like Bassetlaw, and will be working with other councils who are in a similar position to push this up the political agenda. We will also continue to work with Nottinghamshire County Council as the Lead Flood Authority and the Environment Agency to identify short-term measures that can be taken to reduce the known risks and prepare communities as best we can in the event of future flooding.
“I am immensely grateful for the operational response involving the Environment Agency, Councils, Councillors, residents and businesses who have all done a great job, but it is unsustainable, dangerous and unfair for this to remain the only meaningful line of defence for our area.”
Last Updated on Wednesday, January 10, 2024