Chamber puts the case for better flood defences

Cumbria Chamber of Commerce is calling on the Government to do more to defend businesses from flooding.

The Chamber’s Business Engagement Manager, Julian Whittle, visited Westminster to give evidence to the Environment and Rural Affairs Parliamentary Select Committee, which is conducting an inquiry into coastal flooding.

Chamber Chief Executive Rob Johnston said: “We know from our experience of river flooding in 2005, 2009 and 2015 how catastrophic floods can be for businesses and we want to share that knowledge with the Select Committee.

“Coastal flooding has been less of an issue but is likely to become more common as climate change brings rising sea levels and increases the frequency of severe storms.

“Cumbria has key businesses in coastal locations, such as BAE Systems and Sellafield, as well as exposed road and rail links.

“At present the Government prioritises the defence of homes over businesses and infrastructure. We don’t want to see less spent on defending residential property but we do think businesses and transport links deserve better protection.

“We also believe that the cost-benefit mechanism the Government uses to evaluate flood defence schemes unfairly favours South East England where land values are higher.

“London and the South East receives 60% of the funding in England for defences but has only 32% of the population.”

He added: “Our experience of river flooding shows that it isn’t only businesses that have been flooded that are affected.

“If your customers or key suppliers are knocked out by a flood, the consequences can be severe.

“Equally, lengthy road closures – as happened when Northside Bridge in Workington was swept away in 2009 – can have serious consequences. The additional costs to road users of those floods have been estimated at £2m a week.

“Floods also inhibit investment. Banks are less likely to lend to businesses that are at risk from flooding.

“And multi-national businesses, who can pick and choose where they invest, are likely to divert spending away from flood-prone sites to those deemed less risky.

“All these factors strengthen the case for better flood defences for businesses and that’s what we’ll be saying to the Select Committee.”

The Government has committed £2.5bn in capital funding for flood defences for the period 2015-16 to 2020-21.

However, the Environment Agency has said that spending needs to more than double to £1bn a year for the next 50 years to meet the challenges posed by climate change.

Listen to Julian Whittle discussing his appearance before the Select Committee with BBC Radio Cumbria’s Adam Powell.

© Cumbria Chamber of Commerce