Witney News - Calls for change in flood prevention funding

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Calls for change in flood prevention funding

West Oxfordshire District Council has put forward a proposal requesting changes to the way the Government deals with funding for flood alleviation schemes.

The Council has asked for criteria to be revised so that Government flood grants are distributed more evenly between rural and urban areas. It has also suggested that the control of budgets for flood relief work is handed over to local authorities to enable them to work with partner organisations and communities to deliver schemes that meet the needs of residents and businesses.

The Council has submitted the proposals under the Sustainable Communities Act 2007, which gives councils and communities an opportunity to put forward new ideas to the Government about changes that could help to meet the challenges of sustainability and local wellbeing. All communities and local authorities have been given the chance to submit proposals.

Within its submission, the District Council has proposed that the Government:

* Revises its criteria for the award of Flood Defence Grant in Aid, which is administered by the Environment Agency (EA) on behalf of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), to take into account rural proofing. The Council believes the current criteria used when considering areas for funding – particularly a focus on the number of households in affected areas - favours urban schemes to the detriment of schemes in rural areas, such as West Oxfordshire.
* Gives funding for local flood relief schemes direct to local authorities to allow them to work with partners and local communities to implement schemes which they feel best address local needs.

Cllr Barry Norton, Leader of the Council, said: “West Oxfordshire was devastated by flooding in 2007 and, due to inadequate legislation and funding criteria, we are yet to see sufficient levels of Government funding being invested in schemes to help alleviate future flooding problems and protect homes and businesses.

“Our Council has proactively engaged with local communities on flooding issues and it is our view that local authorities are better placed to cater for local needs. We believe our proposals would lead to the removal of barriers to funding and delivery of locally-focused schemes, which would not only benefit West Oxfordshire communities but also many other rural communities that are at risk of on-going flooding problems.”

The Council has used Eastfield Road, Witney, as an example of how West Oxfordshire has missed out on a flood alleviation scheme due to Government criteria for funding. Despite a feasibility study by the Environment Agency finding that an upstream storage pond would be the best solution to alleviate problems in this area, the EA could not get funding for the scheme as it did not meet DEFRA criteria.

Cllr Norton added: “If the proposals are successful local flood alleviation projects such as the Eastfield Road scheme could be undertaken which would provide protection to local residents and businesses.”

He also said that the Council recognises the importance of partnership working on issues such as flooding and that the authority would continue to work closely with organisations such as the EA, Oxfordshire County Council and Thames Water, should the proposals be accepted.

The Council’s submission has been sent to the Local Government Association (LGA) for consideration by a selection panel responsible for drawing up a shortlist of proposals.

Shortlisted proposals will then be submitted to Hilary Benn, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, who will decide in conjunction with the LGA which proposals should be implemented.

Posted : 17/08/2009 10:51:58

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