Homes in the North East face an increased risk of flooding after Ministers cut funding for defences by £138m, an MP has warned.
Leading a Commons debate, Teesside MP Tom Blenkinsop highlighted an independent study which found properties in the North East, along with those in the North West and Yorkshire, had an above-average chance of suffering flooding.
But cash to keep flood defences up-to-date had been cut, he warned.
The Government cut the Environment Agency’s flood defence budget by £138m, just over a fifth of its total budget, in 2010.
Mr Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, told Ministers: “As of January 2014, Government funding for flood defences was forecast to be lower in both nominal and real terms during the current spending period than during the previous spending period, and the Committee on Climate Change has calculated that that represents a real terms cut of around 20%. There has been little investment in other more rural areas of the North East.”
But the need for investment in flood defences was only going to grow, he said.
“Since climate change is expected to increase the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events in the UK, we must have a joined-up, nationwide strategy on flood prevention.
“The effects of flooding last long after the water has subsided, and as many of my constituents know, the effects can last almost indefinitely causing lasting financial and emotional damage.
“The Government must act to protect all households from the damaging effects of flooding, not just in urban areas or where there is a high media presence. I urge them to extend the support and emphasis that they gave to areas hit by flooding last winter to places such as East Cleveland that were hit earlier in the year.”
Large parts of Northumberland and Tyneside have been hit by flooding in the last two years, with some areas seeing repeated incidents.
Environment Minister Dan Rogerson said last year’s floods were consistent with the way scientists expect global warming to effect the climate, which meant they could become more common in future.
He said: “Although it is not yet possible to attribute a single instance of extreme weather to climate change, the recent winter storminess is in line with what we expect to see under climate change scenarios. We therefore expect an increase in the frequency and severity of those types of weather events.”
He added: “Recent Environment Agency data indicate that, in North East England, approximately 36,500 properties are at risk of river and coastal flooding. Approximately 11,528 of those are thought to be at significant risk of flooding.
“The properties at risk are spread throughout the region. However, in a number of key flooding areas, existing flood defences afford a level of protection to communities. For example, the defences at Morpeth are currently being improved to provide more than a one-in-137-year standard of protection to 1,000 properties.
“Other communities benefiting from Environment Agency maintained defences include South Church, West Auckland, Hexham, Ponteland and Skinningrove.”