Flood defence project approved

Flood defences costing £5.7m aimed at protecting 180 properties from the River Derwent in Keswick, Cumbria are among 39 projects given the go-ahead by the government.

More than 2,000 properties in Cockermouth, Workington and Keswick were damaged in November 2009 when heavy rain led to widespread flooding.

Over the next year £521m will be spent nationwide managing flood risks, including the new schemes, completion of 108 projects already under construction and a further 187 schemes receiving funding for development work such as feasibility studies, for possible construction in future years.

The allocation for 2011/12 also covers maintenance of existing defences, developing flood forecasting technologies and heightening public awareness of flood risk.

The government expects to spend at least £2.1bn on flooding and coastal erosion over the next four years and improve protection for at least 145,000 homes.

Richard Benyon, environment minister, said: "Protecting homes from the threat of flooding and coastal erosion is incredibly important for the government, and schemes which will contribute the most in terms of protection to households and economic benefit per pound spent have been prioritised.

"The Environment Agency and other risk management authorities have worked very closely to ensure that as many people as possible are protected from the threat of flooding using the resources available."

During 2010/2011 a £38m scheme was completed to protect 3,500 properties and businesses in Carlisle.

Next month Defra, the Cabinet Office, the Welsh Assembly Government and the Environment Agency will conduct the country's biggest peacetime exercise, Exercise Watermark, to test the country's arrangements to respond to severe, wide-area flooding.

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