Council calls on Government to fund flood defences to protect Severn Beach rail branch line

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Further funding is needed to expand the Avonmouth and Severnside Enterprise Area (ASEA) Flood Defence and Ecology Mitigation Project to also help protect the Severn Beach rail branch line.

The existing flood defence work includes planning permission for 1.5km of defence on the landward side of the railway and is being delivered jointly by South Gloucestershire and Bristol City Councils with the Environment Agency (EA). The work will provide 17km of new and improved defences to reduce flood risk to 2,500 homes and businesses, and by reducing flood risk will help to unlock 12,000 new jobs through enabling development in the Enterprise Area for the West of England.

A defence on the seaward side is needed to protect the railway, which is designated as Critical National Infrastructure and supports the UK’s aspirations for Carbon Net Zero as it connects to the Suez Energy from Waste site. The facility takes up to 370,000 tonnes of waste each year from six boroughs in West London as well as from Bristol.

South Gloucestershire Council leader, Cllr Claire Young, has written to the Secretary of State for Transport, Rt Hon Mark Harper, to ask that the Department of Transport (DfT) reconsiders a decision not to fund partnership schemes with Network Rail, which would be included in the expanded programme. A partnership is needed in this case as the seaward defence would be on Network Rail land.

Councillor Young’s letter said that Government funding will be vital to maintain the ASEA project programme and deliver the wider project outcomes. The ASEA project has already allocated £4 million to the work, which is expected to cost between £10-12 million.

Councillor Young said: “The councils, working with the Environment Agency, have designed a project that will protect homes and businesses on Severnside, as well as help to create new natural habitats in an ecologically unique area. It is vital that this work is itself protected by the extension of the defences to protect the rail line and all that relies upon it against the threat of rising sea levels.

“We look forward to hearing from the Transport Secretary soon that the Government will reconsider this investment in truly vital infrastructure to protect communities, businesses and nature in South Gloucestershire.”

A copy of the letter is available here: https://sites.southglos.gov.uk/newsroom/wp-content/uploads/sites/11/2024/02/Avonmouth-and-Severnside-Enterprise-Area-ASEA-Flood-Defence-and-Ecology-Mitigation-7.pdf