Film cuts of the April Annual Meeting presentations from Edward Greenwell, Chairman, Andrew Hawes, Consultant Engineer, Karen Thomas and Giles Bloomfield from the IDB and Jane Maxim Funding Chair will be available on the web site shortly. There will be a further public meeting towards the end of the year (probably November) to discuss the defined costs of the whole project and the expected funding income. The Estuary Trust website has now been launched at www.aoetrust.org
It may be helpful to explain the system whereby the Environment Agency gives grants in two different forms for flood defence work.
- FDGiA (Flood Defence Grant in Aid) from the Environment Agency is calculated (amongst other parameters) on how many properties are moved to a lower flood risk category rather than simply the number of properties protected. It would only be payable on those properties protected by the upgraded wall that are currently unprotected by existing defences. That number would be small, as would be FDGiA.
- FDGiA is awarded to a Risk Management Authority (the IDB or the Environment Agency) for use on specific flood cells with the safeguards and criteria appropriate for tax payer’s money. It cannot be, for example, be given to the AOEP to spend.
- It is impossible to say with any accuracy at this stage how much FDGiA would be available for AOEP schemes without individual detailed business cases (work on these for Snape, Aldeburgh and Iken is being carried out now). The Estuary Plan is not using up FDGIA in one area only, but on a flood cell by flood cell basis i.e. the available FDGiA for Aldeburgh is for Aldeburgh and that for Orford is for Orford and can only be spent there. FDGiA can only be applied for once in any flood cell.
- Farmland does attract FDGiA funding under Outcome Measure 1 – but at a much reduced rate compared to homes.
- Levy Funding (County Council funding through the Regional Flood and Coastal Committee (RFCC) helps to finance schemes which protect smaller communities that would not otherwise be eligible for full funding. Together with FDGiA, it is hoped that there will be about £1.5-2million available for the whole estuary. Iken, for instance, will have very little FDGiA as there are very few houses at risk.
- Tax breaks for any business are only eligible as part of Government funded schemes (i.e. those awarded FDGiA). For such schemes, those who donate funds can offset their contributions against tax. The HMRC tax scheme is designed as an incentive to encourage private contributions and doesn’t generate additional funds for flood defences.
- Loan The IDB loan is being paid back by the IDB ratepayers. This has led to a trebling of their IDB rates. The IDB will only be paid by The Trust for work it has carried out. The loan was taken out to enable the IDB to do such work in advance of any payment from The Trust.
Bunding towns and villages. The hydrological effects of new walls built on virgin land would need to be fully modelled and, as with the AOEP’s Estuary Plan, no work will be permitted by the EA that leads to increased risk to other properties. When new walls are built across the marsh they will initially sink as the saturated clay beneath them is compressed and the water squeezed out of it. Building them to their design height therefore has to be done in stages over several years. This process of shrinkage has largely finished on the existing walls, rebuilt 65 years ago.
Any new flood defence scheme will definitely not be fully funded by government, and will require significant local contributions towards the cost from the community choosing to go down this route. In addition to the cost of building any new walls, land would have to be purchased on which to build them. For these reasons, the cost of new flood defences to protect only the towns and villages is unlikely to be cheaper than the cost of improving the present defences, and does not protect other assets such as freshwater habitat, farm employment and footpaths along the estuary.
The HR Wallingford’s computer modelling reports for the main estuary will be available in the late autumn when the defined costs of the works are discussed. The modelling confirms that the AOEP plan is deliverable and reduces flood risk to over 300 properties in the estuary. It provides the evidence the Environment Agency requires to give consents for the upgrading work. The modelling explored various spillway options and concluded that whilst they can lower flood risk in smaller surge events, they do not reduce risk and can even increase risk in larger flood events as flood storage is ‘used up’ earlier in the large surges. Managed realignment can support the reduction of flood risk but requires significant investment to protect local homes and infrastructure further inland.
The AOEP’s share of the cost of modelling was funded in full by the RFCC. Tidal Lagoon Power, who were looking for areas on the East Coast to mitigate their potential project in Swansea Bay, funded further modelling of the creation of intertidal habitat. [See BBC News 25th June: Tidal Lagoon Power’s plans for their Cardiff and Swansea Bay lagoon power schemes have been rejected by the Government and therefore their proposal to use land for managed realignment within the estuary for compensatory habitat is unlikely to happen.]