Replace warm words with hard cash for natural flood management, Government told

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The Government has been accused of failing to deliver on promises to fund "natural" flood management schemes such as planting trees.

A Freedom of Information request by environmental group Friends of the Earth to the Environment Department (Defra) revealed that there was no funding earmarked specifically for natural flood management.

The campaign group said the lack of funding went against promises from ministers to finance natural flood management measures - and followed an announcement in the last Budget of an extra £700 million for flood defences.

There have also been recommendations by civil servants for specific projects for funding, Friends of the Earth said.

Natural flood management schemes aim to slow the movement of water downstream to prevent flooding, for example by creating water storage such as ponds, planting trees along water courses and restoring rivers to their original meandering path.

Ministers have reassured environmental charities that they support natural defences against flooding such as planting trees.

Friends of the Earth and new charity Rewilding Britain, which wants to see landscapes returned to a more natural state with more wildlife, are calling for at least £20 million for natural flood defences in this week's Autumn Statement.

Guy Shrubsole, climate campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said: "Last winter's floods were a powerful reminder that we need to work with nature to reduce flood risk - and ministers wholeheartedly agreed.

"But so far it's been all talk and no action - the Government has failed to spend a single extra penny on natural flood management.

"Ministers must replace warm words with hard cash and announce a pot of at least £20 million for natural flood defence in this year's Autumn Statement. Anything less will be a betrayal of the communities that flooded so terribly last winter."

Helen Meech, director of Rewilding Britain, said: "There is now significant evidence to show that rewilding can substantially reduce flood risk downstream, protecting communities at a fraction of the cost of traditional flood defences, whilst also delivering improved water quality and space for nature to thrive.

"As the Government considers new approaches to management of Britain's natural environment post-Brexit, we feel it is high-time we invested in making space for water, for the benefit of both people and wildlife."

A Defra spokesman said: "We're committed to better protecting the country from flooding and natural flood management plays an important role in our strategy.

"We're spending a record £2.5 billion on flood defences to better protect 300,000 more homes by 2021 and many of these projects are already using natural flood management measures."