Leader of South Gloucestershire Council: Why flood defences are so vital for our local communities

18 October 2021. Councillor Toby Savage, South Gloucestershire Council Leader and Cabinet Member with responsibility for Climate Change, looks at the impact of flooding on local communities and the vital flood defence work being carried out to protect them.

According to the Association of British Insurers, flooding is the greatest natural disaster risk in the UK, with an estimated one in six properties in England and Wales now at risk of flooding. On top of that, Met Office data shows six of the ten wettest years on record have occurred since 1998.

Flooding can cause widespread disruption and have a devastating impact on people’s lives, their homes and businesses. There are few places more suited to considering the impact of climate change on real communities and businesses because of rising sea levels than the Severn Estuary.

The work being carried out as part of the Avonmouth and Severnside Enterprise Area (ASEA) Ecological Mitigation and Flood Defence project means thousands of homes and businesses in the area will be better protected. The project will provide 17km of improved flood defences, reducing flood risk to around 2,500 homes and businesses. The defences will supplement existing flood barriers and help protect the area from the increased risk of flooding from climate change and rising sea levels.

A recent report, by The Association of British Insurers and Flood Re (Flood Re are a joint initiative between the Government and insurers), reported that river flood defences provide protection to flood risk communities valued at savings of £568 million a year. The research suggests that without defences, losses could amount to approximately £958 million a year, whereas with defences that figure reduces to £388 million a year.

The newly constructed flood defences, stretching between Aust in South Gloucestershire and Lamplighter’s Marsh in Bristol, will help encourage businesses to invest in the area and are expected to unlock 12,000 new jobs by 2026. This will deliver a significant boost for our regional and national economy.

A key milestone achieved this summer was the installation of precast concrete flood defence wall units in the Severn Beach area. To the north of Severn Beach, this is largely complete. Together with the work south of Severn Beach, approximately a kilometre of flood defence wall has been put in place. The walls consist of 428 units, all of which were precast offsite, meaning they were put in quickly and with the minimum of disruption to the local community.

Once the whole ASEA project is completed in 2026/2027, thousands of homes and businesses in our area will be better protected against the risk of flooding. I look forward to seeing the project continue to progress over the next few years, reducing the flood risk posed by climate change and rising sea levels.