An influential Parliamentary Select Committee has endorsed Cumbria Chamber of Commerce’s call to improve flood protection for businesses.
The Chamber’s Business Engagement Manager, Julian Whittle, gave evidence to the Environment and Rural Affairs Select Committee’s inquiry into coastal flooding in June.
The Committee has now published an interim report in which it quotes directly from the Chamber’s evidence and calls on the Government and the Environment Agency to rethink the methodology used to determine spending on flood defences.
The report says: “Julian Whittle from Cumbria Chamber of Commerce told us ‘not enough cognizance is given to the needs of business’ and….the funding calculator [for flood defences] ‘is purely prioritised on residential’.”
The Select Committee’s report also calls for tax incentives to encourage private investment in flood defences.
Chamber Chief Executive Rob Johnston said: “The Select Committee was keen to hear from us because we have experience of the impacts of flooding on businesses given the severe floods Cumbria experienced in 2005, 2009 and 2015.
“We told them that flood-hit businesses have seen big increases in insurance excesses, some have struggled to borrow and some have been denied investment by parent companies unwilling to spend on flood-prone sites.
“We called for a change in the way that flood defence schemes are evaluated to recognise the needs of businesses.
“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.”
He added: “It’s encouraging that the Select Committee has listened to what we told them and acted upon it.
“If we hadn’t pushed the message hard, it’s unlikely that the Committee would have picked up on this.
“Although their inquiry was focused on coastal flooding many of these issues apply equally to river flooding, which has been such a problem in Cumbria.”
The Select Committee published an interim report in response to the dissolution of Parliament for a General Election, which has prevented it from completing its inquiry.
It hopes that a successor committee in the new Parliament will build on the work completed to date.
The Select Committee’s report is available to download here.