in the back
Straining the banks
Flood defences, Issue 1510
environment.jpg SEVERE flooding in Yorkshire and the East Midlands gave politicians a chance to make big spending promises. Prime minister Boris Johnson’s vague pledges about investing in flood banks and trees were trumped by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s promise of £5.6bn over the next 10 years, and Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson’s £5bn pledge covering the next five years. But none of these would be enough to keep the nation dry.

A “future pipeline” of planned schemes by the Environment Agency (EA) already adds up to £11bn – and would only protect a fifth of the 5m properties currently at risk from flooding. In a consultation paper earlier this year, the EA said it was “investing over £200m in maintaining existing flood and coastal risk management infrastructure” for the whole of England in 2018-19. Sounds like a lot? It’s not nearly enough.

Don roaming
A lengthy list of planned EA flood defence projects that affect the Doncaster area alone (in an appendix to the spring 2019 update to Doncaster council’s infrastructure strategy) tots up to, er, £215m. The work that needs doing includes replacing floodgates, refurbishing culverts, embankments and old flood defence walls, raising the height of parapets and costly repairs to many existing pumping stations. Similar “to do” lists exist in river catchment areas around the country.

One item on the Doncaster list is: “Fishlake nab wall and embankment refurb”, scheduled to take place sometime in the next five years and to cost £2m. Fishlake, a South Yorkshire village of around 700 homes, was one of the worst hit places in the recent floods. Despite the name, it has only flooded twice since the river Don was widened and flood walls and embankments were built in the mid-20th century. Experts have differed in the national press over whether newer defences further upstream pushed more water into Fishlake this time. If the 1950s defences crumble, things could be even worse.

Cashflow problem
As noted in Eye 1357, a government wheeze in 2014 to bring in private funding for flood defences through “resilience partnerships” was largely useless. The EA says that partnership funding has had “limited success” in drumming up actual private sector money and almost all partners are, er, other taxpayer-funded organisations.

More top stories in the latest issue:

WHO KNEW!
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A FAIR COP?
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FRIENDS IN SPY PLACES
A recent director-general for technology at GCHQ is joining an intelligence company that worked to undermine a key whistleblower in the 1MDB scandal.

ATOS AT IT AGAIN
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MEAT THE FREEHOLDER
Since a fire ripped through the University of Bolton’s student accommodation, attention has focused on its construction and cladding. But who owns the Cube?

PAY & DISMAY
Lecturers at Coventry University are some of the worst-paid in their region, and now Coventry is introducing an online appraisal system to avoid pay rises.

TIRED RESPONSE
The decision not to prosecute the driver in the 2016 Croydon tram crash reflects the fact that TfL ignored warnings about the dangers of driver fatigue.

To read all these stories in full, please buy issue 1510 of Private Eye - you can and have the magazine delivered to your home every fortnight.

Next issue on sale: 10th December 2019
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