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Government commits £150m to innovative flood defence projects

Projects based on AI, sensors and flood alert apps have received £150m from the UK’s Environment Agency and Defra to find ground-breaking ways to protect against flooding in England.

Apps alerting residents to flooding, permeable road surfaces to improve drainage and schemes to protect vital sand dune beaches are among the 25 local projects that will receive funding over the next six years.

The schemes, chosen from 79 applications across the country, will trial a wide range of different approaches to flood and coastal resilience, tailored to local communities.

Some of the projects chosen include:

  • Buckinghamshire: Trial for a new approach to groundwater flooding in Chilterns and Berkshire Downs, including plans for property flood resilience measures in up to 200 homes, groundwater monitoring and a groundwater flood alert app for householders and businesses.
  • Northumberland: Artificial intelligence and new sensor technology will help deliver improved flood resilience in at least six rural communities using a range of solutions, including testing and developing an enhanced flood warning system.
  • Wyre: The creation of ecological community owned coastal buffer strips – including natural wooden barriers to capture sediment, seeding of plants and establishing saltmarshes – to enhance the coastal resilience of North West coastal communities and to capture carbon.
  • Staffordshire: A project aiming to improve the resilience of flooding in Staffordshire, including through technology to forecast and map flood events, CCTV monitoring in high risk areas and a boost to community resilience through an easier accessible web platform.
  • Central Bedfordshire: The project will use new sensing technologies to help use flood risk infrastructure more effectively, improving the use of existing flood storage areas and investing in a network of telemetry to enable management of reservoirs across the catchment.

On average, each area will receive £6m between April 2021 and March 2027.

The funding is part of the government’s new Flood and Coastal Resilience Innovation Programme, managed by the Environment Agency.

Alongside funding these projects, the government is investing £5.2bn into new flood and coastal defences to better protect 336,000 properties across England by 2027.

Rebecca Pow, the environment minister, said: “We’re investing a record £5.2bn in 2,000 new flood and coastal defences over the next six years – but with the effects of climate change already being felt it’s vital that we combine this with long-term approaches to improve communities’ resilience.

“These 25 projects will not only help to inform future approaches to prepare communities for flooding and coastal change across the country, but also help reinforce the UK’s position as a world leader in innovation and new technology as we build back better.”

Emma Howard Boyd, chair of the Environment Agency, said the innovation programme was “extremely exciting”, adding: “What we learn will inform our approach to the climate crisis in the coming decades, and it’s something to tell our international partners about at COP26.

“I’m particularly interested in the projects that test the ability of nature-based projects to generate revenue. If successful, these could be scaled up by private finance around the world, helping to prepare for climate shocks, restore nature and create jobs.”

The full list of projects that will receive funding is available here.

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