Chair of West of England LEP: Why flood defence project is so important for economy

As the economy opens up again, Richard Bonner, Chair of the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership, discusses the long-term plans to protect the Avonmouth Severnside Enterprise Area from flooding and why this work is so important to the regional economy’

The £80 million Avonmouth Severnside Enterprise Area (ASEA) Ecology Mitigation and Flood Defence Project is the biggest flood defence project and ecology project in the West of England’s history.

Work is now well underway on a package of flood defence measures along 17km of coastline – from Lamplighters Marsh in the south to Aust in the north – to reduce flood risk to 2,500 homes and businesses. This work will help to unlock up to 12,000 new jobs in the West of England by 2026 -2027.

This project creates great impetus for economic development in our region. It’s a huge boost – without it the Enterprise Area cannot come forward.

I recently had the opportunity to visit the works with other partners and seeing the brilliant progress being made is impressive. We’re really pleased to see so much being delivered.

With funding of £63m from the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership, administered by the West of England Combined Authority, we’re supporting the partnership work of South Gloucestershire Council, Bristol City Council and the Environment Agency. Other funding sources are the Government’s Flood Defence Grant in Aid, and Local Levy raised by the Wessex Regional Flood and Coastal Committee.

These new flood defences will supplement existing flood barriers and help protect the area from the increased risk of flooding caused by climate change and rising sea levels. The defences will ensure the reduction of flood risk for at least 60 years – something which our region’s business and political leaders are confident will lead to even more significant investment in the Enterprise Area. The West of England’s recovery plan has a focus on a green recovery with sustainable opportunities for all. We’re working hard to provide businesses with the confidence that their plans for new jobs and investment will not be dampened by flooding concerns.

Situated near the M5 and M49 motorways, the Enterprise Area is a prime location for business – it’s perfectly-placed as an economic gateway between England and Wales, as well as between the Midlands and the South West.

From an ecological perspective, the project will improve flood defences and enhance the natural environment on the internationally important Severn Estuary– creating at least 80 hectares of coastal wetland habitats for bird species. It will also improve walking routes, making it easier for everyone to enjoy nature and the spectacular views of the Severn Estuary. This will be a huge boost for people’s physical and mental health.

We’ve already seen a great advance towards making the Enterprise Area a reality. I look forward to witnessing the forthcoming developments, with even more flood defence work and innovative technology in the pipeline. This will help us deliver the reassurances to businesses that the West of England is the premier location for their investment.