Bristol council chiefs still need to find over £100m to fund major River Avon flood defences

The flooded River Avon at Lacock.

Bristol City Council chiefs still need to find over £100 million to fund major flood defences on the River Avon.

The huge works are expected to cost more than £216 million with construction lasting a decade, but questions remain as to who will pay for them.

Bristol faces an increasing risk of severe flooding due to rising sea levels, as well as more frequent extreme storms and heavy rain.

Meanwhile, flood risk is stopping developers from being able to build thousands of homes the city needs to tackle the growing housing crisis.

Due to inflation, costs for the flood defences are expected to have risen from the previous estimate of £216 million. More details of the works are expected in January.

Shaun Hartley, project director for the Bristol Avon flood strategy, said: “We’ve currently got 1,300 existing properties at risk of a severe flood if we do nothing, that becomes 4,500 existing properties by the end of the century.

“We’re around about the halfway mark in identifying capital funds for the project. We’ve got to prove we can close that gap to have confidence in delivering the scheme.”

The Avon Wildlife Trust hopes beavers can help prevent flooding in years to come. Credit: Ian Wilson

The flood defence works will likely include upgrading the harbour gates and building new defences at St Philips Marsh and the western end of the Harbourside, as part of a regeneration project around the Cumberland Basin known as the “Western Harbour”.

The new defences could enable the construction of 13,000 new homes.

According to Mr Hartley, about £108 million of funding has been identified to pay for the defences, from various sources, with at least another £108 million still needed to be found.

However, this funding gap appears to have increased since October last year, when a cabinet meeting was told just £81 million was still needed to be found to pay for the works.

The project team will ask the cabinet to sign off their outline business case in January.

The next stage requires getting planning permission from different councils and signing off by the Environment Agency. Construction is expected to take place from 2027 to 2036.

Mr Hartley added: “If a flood does happen in the near future, then clearly the political environment could change and we might get a cash injection towards that capital gap. But nobody would ever wish that, of course.”