High hopes for £6m funding for vital Exeter flood defences
EXETER is in line to secure funding for crucial improvements to its flood defences, the Echo can reveal.
The £6m funding gap for stronger flood defences could soon be plugged, according to the Environment Agency.
It told the Echo it will bid for a share of the £120m extra funding announced by the Government last week and is hopeful of success.
An improved flood defence scheme for the city, which the agency has said is one of its top priorities in the country, has a price tag of £25m.
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The agency is to put in £13m and both Exeter City Council and Devon County Council have said they will each put in £3m.
That leaves £6m, which both local authorities were hoping could be found within the private sector.
Paul Gainey, a spokesman for the Environment Agency, told the Echo: "The extra funding announced by the Government is for close-the-gap funding as a last resort when there is a shortfall.
"We can put a bid into this pot of money if there's a gap in funding a scheme on the basis of the existing commitments that are in place.
"The EA is putting in £13m, Exeter City Council is putting in £3m as is Devon County Council, and we are hopeful we will be successful with the bid."
Exeter City Council leader Pete Edwards said: "This is excellent news and I am relieved there now seems to be light at the end of the tunnel.
"We will be doing everything in our power to make sure this happens and I am sure that the county council will as well.
"We will be seeking urgent meetings with the EA to find the best way forward.
"When you saw those pictures last week of the Quay you realised how close we came – it could have been a disaster."
John Hart, leader of the county council, has also welcomed news of the extra pot of funding and what it is likely to mean for Exeter.
He said: "It does show the Government is listening and has responded fast.
"It is vital that Exeter flood defences are improved, not only for the protection of thousands of homes but also for the local economy. That's why Devon County Council has already pledged £3m to this scheme which the EA says is one of the top four priorities in the UK."
Exeter's MP Ben Bradshaw has been pushing for the funding to be found. He said: "I hope this means quick progress can now be made on upgrading Exeter's defences, but it should not have required the recent floods to spur the Government to action. We've been warning for two years of the urgency of this, the disastrous impact of the Government's cuts in flood defence and failure to secure affordable insurance cover for householders and businesses.
"Climate change means floods will be more severe and frequent in future and policy needs to reflect that."