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Norfolk flood protection takes centre stage in Westminster

Norfolk County Council, 1 February 2024 10:25

The threat posed by flooding and coastal erosion in Norfolk has been laid out starkly for MPs as Norfolk County Council has taken their case for change to the heart of Westminster.

The delegation from Norfolk, led by Norfolk County Council Leader Cllr Kay Mason Billig and the Chair of the Norfolk Strategic Flood Alliance (NSFA), Henry Cator, met with MPs yesterday afternoon, on the 71st anniversary of the 1953 North Sea Flood, to explain the risks Norfolk faces and how those risks could be addressed.

As demonstrated over this winter, our county faces regular risks of flooding, with Norfolk ranked tenth most at risk of surface water flooding out of 149 local authority areas. In addition, the county's position on the North Sea exposes it to tidal threats as well as significant coastal erosion: without action, it's estimated that in North Norfolk alone approximately 1,030 residential and commercial properties could be lost to erosion by 2100. That number could be up to 10,000 in all of Norfolk.

These risks threaten both Norfolk residents and the contribution Norfolk makes to the wider country, as home to 54% of the offshore wind generation capacity in the UK and a major producer of food.

Cllr Kay Mason Billig, Leader of Norfolk County Council, said: "Due to Norfolk's location and geography our county has always been exposed to flooding and coastal erosion, but the impact of the series of storms that have hit the country this winter can leave no one in any doubt that these serious issues must be addressed. While these natural events don't have their origins in Westminster, the solutions do: with changes in legislation and regulation, we will be able to respond much more swiftly and effectively to the risks we face and have greater control over where money is spent in order to protect our landscape.

"Norfolk has huge potential to bring benefits to the whole country, from the wealth of offshore energy to the huge contribution our county makes to UK food production, but all of this relies upon a certain and secure future. Give us the means to control our environment in Norfolk and the benefits will be felt across all of the UK."

In a presentation delivered in Portcullis House, part of the Parliamentary Estate in Westminster, Norfolk's delegation made the case for MPs to:

  • Push for legislative permission to build reservoirs designed to capture excess water in times of flood, for use in times of drought
  • Advocate for Property Flood Protection measures to be granted directly to the Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA) for faster allocation for those who need it
  • Reduce bureaucracy by granting greater autonomy in funding allocation for surface water flood mitigation schemes
  • Combine enforcement and maintenance powers and responsibilities for LLFA's
  • Support the creation of a dedicated Minister for the Coast

Henry Cator, Chair of the NSFA, said: "We've made great strides in Norfolk in identifying sites at risk of flooding and proposing real, viable solutions for them, however under the current regulatory environment there are limits to what we can effectively do. It may sound dull and technical, but changes to how powers and funding are granted can have a real impact in how quickly and efficiently we can work on the ground in Norfolk.

"More than that, however, there needs to be a real conversation about how flood defences can be maintained at a national level: we know that every pound spent on flood defence prevents approximately £12 worth of damage being wrought on homes and businesses. That kind of return on investment deserves a real and urgent discussion at the highest levels of government, and a dedicated Minister for the Coast could lead those discussions and effect real change."

Last modified: 14 May 2024 13:20