Flood defence targets surpassed protecting thousands of North East homes for over six years

York river flood defence Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

A £2.6 billion six-year programme of work dedicated to improving flood and coastal defences in the North East has exceeded its original targets - with over 1,250 homes now better protected from flooding since 2015.

During 2015-2021, Defra made investments across regions of England, including funding areas where it was needed the most, pushing forward regeneration in communities at high risk of flooding. Many of these areas had suffered from significant flooding during the winter of 2015.

Flood protection work in Lustrum Beck in Stockton Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

In the North East, some of the schemes that benefited from this investment included:

  • Marton West Beck: A £4.8 million Middlesbrough flood scheme that better protects around 500 homes and businesses completed in January 2022.

  • Port Clarence and Greatham South: This £16 million Teesside scheme was completed in 2018 and increased flood protection from the River Tees and Greatham Creek for 350 homes and 32 businesses, while also creating a habitat the size of over 90 football pitches for local wildlife.

  • Ponteland: A £2.7 million flood scheme in Northumberland is currently underway and will better protect 250 properties in the town from flooding from the River Pont. Existing flood defences on the south bank of the river are being replaced with one continuous sheet piled flood wall and more than 250 trees have been planted as part of the scheme.

  • Lustrum Beck: A £4 million scheme using natural flood management which better protects 150 homes in Stockton. They work hand in hand with multi-million pound town centre flood defences which were constructed together with Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council in 2017.

  • Tyne Green: A new £65,000 flood bank was built at Tyne Green in Hexham in 2018 in a unique project which saw residents pool government grants awarded to them after they flooded during Storm Desmond in 2015. The flood bank was designed to protect against a flood event similar to that experienced by Tyne Green residents during Storm Desmond and was delivered by the Environment Agency working with Northumberland County Council and local residents.

A North Yorkshire flood in December of last year, new reports shows the work is estimated to have reduced national flood risk by 5%. Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

The programme’s original £2.3 billion budget was expanded to a total £2.6 billion to allow for additional work to be carried out. Alongside the current record £5.2 billion investment, from 2021-2027, the government’s long-term policy statement on flood and coastal erosion risk management is the most comprehensive in a decade with five ambitious policies and over 40 supporting actions to accelerate progress to better protect and prepare the country for future flooding and coastal erosion.

Alongside delivering on its headline target, Defra’s capital investment programme from 2015-2021 has also brought wider benefits to both the environment through the creation and enhancement of natural habitats, and also local communities, through better protecting nationally important infrastructure and wider contributions to economic recovery.

Early analysis suggests the programme of work over the last six years has saved the economy more than £28 billion in avoided damages to properties, businesses and more over the lifetime of these defence assets.

Multi-million pound flood defence scheme as it was being built in Middlesbrough to protect 500 homes. Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

Investment was also targeted at areas likely to be hardest hit by the impact of a flood, with new flood schemes in the most deprived parts of the country continuing to qualify for funding at 2.25 times the rate of other areas.

The Chair of the Environment Agency, Emma Howard Boyd said: "Flood defence works. While we can never protect everyone against all flooding all the time, we can reduce the risk of it happening and the impact when it does. 

"In February – for the first time - we had three named storms in a week, and rivers rose to record heights. While some 400 properties sadly flooded, over 40,000 homes and businesses were protected by our defences.

"The climate emergency is bringing greater risks. Our response must be to protect our communities as best we can, make them more resilient, using natural flood management as well as hard defences, and to tackle both the causes and consequences of climate change. The EA is doing all that in our new £5.2bn flood defence investment programme. We will stay focused on delivering it for the people and places we serve."