THOUSANDS of homes in the North-East have been protected from flooding after extensive investment by the Environment Agency since 2015.

Nationally more than 300,000 homes are better protected from the effects of climate change compared with 2015, the Environment Agency has announced.

Exceeding its target in delivering the government’s £2.6 billion investment in flood and coastal defence schemes since 2015, the Environment Agency and partners have completed more than 700 projects to better protect more than 300,000 homes, nearly 600,000 acres of agricultural land, thousands of businesses and major pieces of infrastructure.

The delivery of the nation’s new defences, which has continued through lockdown with Covid-secure working arrangements, will not only help to save the economy more than £28 billion in avoided damages over the lifetime of defence assets, but also provide reassurance and peace of mind for communities and encourage economic growth.

The successful delivery of the programme comes ahead of the start of the record £5.2 billion investment in 2,000 new flood and coastal defences between 2021 and 2027.

In the North East, the Northumbria Regional Flood and Coastal Committee (NRFCC), which includes the Environment Agency, local authorities and independent members, plays an important role in deciding local priorities for the flood and coastal risk management programme in the region. £132million was invested between 2015 and 2021 to create or improve new flood and coastal defences.

In Tynedale, a new £65,000 flood bank was built at Tyne Green in Hexham in 2018 in a unique project which saw residents pool government grants awarded to them after they were flooded during Storm Desmond in 2015 when properties flooded as a result of water from the River Tyne flowing through an underpass beneath the Newcastle-Carlisle railway line near to Tyne Green Golf Course.

The flood bank was designed to protect against a flood event similar to that experienced by Tyne Green residents during Storm Desmond and was delivered by the Environment Agency working with Northumberland County Council and local residents.

In Ponteland, a £2.7m flood scheme in the town is currently under way and will better protect 250 properties in the town from flooding from the River Pont.

Existing flood defences on the south bank of the river are being replaced with one continuous sheet piled flood wall and more than 250 trees have been planted as part of the scheme.

The Environment Agency, through the NRFCC, administers funding to a number of flood protection projects which are delivered by local authorities or in partnership with Northumbrian Water across the region. Examples of these from the past 5 years includes:

Work is already under way on the delivery of some of the 2,000 new flood and coastal defences that will better protect a further 336,000 properties from flooding and coastal erosion by 2027, which will also see the implementation of the Environment Agency’s Flood and Coastal Risk Management Strategy.

Alongside building new defences, the strategy sets out how the Environment Agency and partners will work to make communities more resilient to the effects of climate change, ensuring they are better prepared for when flooding sadly hits, and able to recover quickly. It will also ensure a greater use of nature to reduce flood risk.

Emma Howard Boyd, chairman of the Environment Agency, said: “The success of this programme is measured in numbers: 700 projects, 300,000 homes, nearly 600,000 acres of agricultural land, thousands of businesses and major pieces of infrastructure, on time and within budget. But the sense of security these protections bring to people, and the benefits to nature, can’t easily be demonstrated on a spreadsheet."