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NCE Live News Updates Friday 6 December: Another day of flooding feared

The Environment Agency says flood defences stood up well to last night’s record tidal surge but warns of danger still to come

 

5pm: The ACE also hopes the ‘specialist planning court’ pledged in the National Infrastructure Plan will see creation of a pool of experts to rule on proposed schemes.

The Treasury document published this week said: “The government will … establish a specialist planning court with set deadlines to accelerate the handling of cases.”

An ACE spokesman told NCE the body was awaiting further details of how the court would work but it was encouraged by the announcement.

“”This will hopefully improve the speed with which planning applications go forward,” he said. “They are often held up by dedicated professionals without the expertise to deal with them.

“These are very technical issues and if we can remove them to a central court we could get all the experts in one place.”

The spokesman said the current planning system involved delays that put investors off spending on infrastructure schemes.

“It can take too long,” he said. “Investors need to know they can get their money back sooner.”

 

4:30pm The latest National Infrastructure Plan can help channel funding into UK infrastructure projects, according to the Association for Consultancy and Engineering.

The Treasury published its updated plan earlier this week, setting out how £375bn would be spent over the next 20 years as well as moves to speed up planning and encourage investment.

A spokesman for the ACE said the document was more detailed than in previous years and would prove more useful.

“This plan will unlock investment. It is more of a prospectus that can be taken out to investors; it shows the UK does get the importance of infrastructure,” he said.

“It gives more information on where we are with projects, and gives a much clearer picture of what the government wants to see developed.”

The ACE welcomed the pledge by six major insurers to collectively invest £25bn in UK infrastructure over the next five years; as well as the apparent interest from the Chinese government in investing in HS2.

“There is a lot of funding out there and details such as this infrastructure plan will encourage investors to come forward,” said the spokesman.

 

4pm: The sea wall in Lowestoft will need repairing after being damaged in the storm surge last night, NCE has learnt.

Bill Parker, Suffolk coast futures officer at Suffolk Coastal District Council, said the surge showed the need to maintain defence structures.

“We have some damage in Felixstowe and some in Lowestoft; most of it is superficial but the sea wall in Lowestoft will need more work,” he said.

“The infrastructure and the systems stood up well but this really shows that we can not let our guard down. This will happen again and we have to maintain the existing defences as well as planning very carefully for the future in terms of where we invest.”

Parker called for an end to the cycle of building behind sea defences. “In some places we may have to say ‘this is not the way forward’,” he said.

He added that the council’s criteria for deciding where to spend on coastal defences needed to evolve to take into account the importance of public spaces.

“It tends to be focused on number of houses protected but, while important, that is not the whole discussion we need to have,” said Parker. “We need to think more carefully about how funding decisions are made.”

 

3.30pm: More than 1,000 tonnes of sea wall is being removed from a stretch of railway in North Wales.

Network Rail engineers are using three heavy excavators after 200m of the coastal defence collapsed at Mostyn during the storm surge that battered the UK yesterday.

The collapse caused the closure of the line between Chester and Rhyl. The site needs to be cleared; the wall repaired; more than 150 tonnes of washed-away ballast replaced; and water damaged signaling repaired.  It is hoped services will resume on Tuesday.

Meanwhile trains are unable to operate between Llandudno Junction and Llanrwst due to major flood damage from the tidal surge.

Engineers are on site assessing the extent of the damage. The railway is unlikely to reopen before Thursday, according to Network Rail.

Network Rail Wales route managing director Mark Langman said: “The storm surge has caused significant damage to the railway in North Wales. We are doing everything we can to get passengers on the move again, but the scale of the work needed means it is likely to be several days before train services resume through the affected areas.

 

1.30pm: The majority of the rail network in Scotland and the north of England has reopened – but lines in Wales remain badly affected by flooding.

Network Rail said ‘hundreds’ of engineers had been working against the conditions to reopen lines closed by fallen debris.

Trees, hay bales and trampolines had made tracks unusable as storms battered the UK yesterday.

Michael Roberts, director-general of the Rail Delivery Group, said: “Hundreds of rail staff will continue to monitor the weather, react quickly to problems on the lines and keep passengers safe and informed.”

 

12.45pm: Just two flood alerts remain in place in Scotland as the risk recedes north of the border.

Central Scotland and the Scottish Borders are on the lowest level of warning from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency. Some 23 warnings were in place across the country yesterday.

Ola Holmstrom, head of water at consultancy WSP, said the country needed to consider moving people away from areas of high flood risk.

She said: “We have been remarkably lucky that major coastal events have not been very severe over the last decade or so – however, flooding is set to increase.

“In the future we will need to recognise that we can’t continue to defend our communities at all costs. We must mitigate against the risks, seeking more innovative approaches to forecasting events and their impacts, and where that is not possible consider more drastic measures such as moving communities inland away from rising sea levels and overland flow routes.”

 

12.15pm: The A12 is closed at Blythburgh in Suffolk today due to the flooding that has blighted the East fo England.

The road, which effectively links Lowestoft with Ipswich, was expected to be shut to traffic all day.

Several smaller roads in the county were affected by the floods following last night’s massive storm surge.

Suffolk Fire and Rescue attended 18 flood and fire related incidents overnight, rescuing 27 people.

Suffolk police assistant chief constable David Skevington, who is leading the county’s multi-agency response to the floods, said: “Last night we were faced with some very challenging conditions, but everyone worked well together in a bid to minimise harm to people and property”

 

11.30am: Engineers worked overnight to fix a damaged flood defence in Lincolnshire, it has emerged.

The Environment Agency workers made temporary repairs to a damaged wall in Boston as the East Coast of England was battered by waves.

Staff continue to inspect flood defences the length of the East Coast of England today, with more flooding feared.

EA chief executive Dr Paul Leinster said:  “Our teams continue to work closely with partner organisations including the emergency services, the Met Office and local authorities.

“Our teams have been out in force overnight, inspecting and repairing flood defences and barriers, monitoring sea levels and issuing flood warnings.”

 

11am: The Thames Barrier is being closed this morning as part of a major campaign of operating flood defences on the East Coast.

The most serious coastal tidal surge for over 60 years is expected to bring more significant flooding to the UK.

Many areas in the East of England are at risk from the combination of a large surge, high tides and large waves.

At 10am this morning there were 27 severe flood warnings in place, along with 138 flood warnings and 63 flood alerts.

Environment Agency chief executive Dr Paul Leinster  said: “Our thoughts are with those who have been affected by flooding. We are urging people to remain vigilant, as we expect further flooding today along large parts of the east coast of England.”

 

10.30am: A brief interlude from flooding news to note the dismay expressed by infrastructure contractors at the slow pace of spending on regional growth.

The National Audit Committee said in a report today that funding plans launched by the government when it came to power in 2010 had yet to be proved a success.

The NAO said direct central government spending on local economic growth through initiatives such as Enterprise Zones and the Regional Growth Fund fell from £1.46bn in 2010/11 to just £273m in 2012/13.

Civil Engineering Contractors Association director of external affairs Alasdair Reisner said: “Today’s publication shows a massive underspend of allocated funds on local infrastructure. This money could now be supporting jobs and growth throughout the whole of England.

“Our research shows that local infrastructure construction is highly effective at creating growth in the economy. While we recognise that it takes time for infrastructure projects to get off the ground, it is disappointing that existing investment has not been deployed more quickly to spur economic growth in the regions.”

 

7am: The Environment Agency has told the BBC that flood defences stood up well to last night’s record tidal surge.

But it has 45 severe flood warnings still in place. As John Curtin Head of Incident Management, Environment Agency tweets: “The second hide tide is starting now in the NE - stay safe, stay informed.”

Eastern Daily Press tweets: Local authorities are stressing that this event is not over yet and there is a risk of further flooding. There is particular concern in the Hunstanton area where some of the shingle bank has been swept away.

 

From overnight: Sinclair Knight Merz shareholders voted overwhelmingly in support of the takeover by Jacobs Engineering

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