“RTS funding has reached the Tipping Point” – Philip Hammond

Ministerial Thames Valley Flooding Envoy Philip Hammond MP and Adam Afriyie, MP for Windsor met with ThamesAwash on Friday 13th February to address persistent concerns raised by the flood pressure group over the slow pace of funding for the £300m River Thames Scheme, designed to provide a long term solution to flooding in the Lower Thames Valley.

Following the Chancellor’s further £60m commitment to the Central Government funding “pot” in the Autumn statement, the public have received little reassurance that the 7 Local Authorities affected will commit to funding the remaining £52m required to complete construction of the RTS and protect the more than 15000 residences and businesses at threat from flooding in the Lower Thames.

“Funding Momentum now unstoppable”

However, Mr Hammond was adamant that, in his opinion, funding for the scheme had now reached the “Tipping Point” and that the momentum building to fund and construct the scheme was now “unstoppable”.

When pressed about the risk which a possible change of government in May might represent, Philip Hammond reassured ThamesAwash that the original 53% of overall project cost (c£155m) plus additional £60m promised for 2021 were “ring-fenced” funds.

Adam Afriyie said “In my 12 years in politics, if any project looked likely to progress, this one does. I am very confident this will go ahead. ”

Local Authorities have already committed to funding RTS development phase

ThamesAwash has received written confirmation from David Burbage, Leader of the RBWM, that the 7 Local Authorities have agreed to fund the development phase of the RTS including the calculation by which the local partnership funding will be split between them.

Local Authorities have also agreed the mechanism by which planning for the RTS will be approached. One authority (decision as to which yet to be agreed) will submit an application on behalf of all and this will then be “called in” by the Secretary of State for the Environment for consideration.

Partnership Funding of Construction phase of RTS still to be agreed

Whilst there is no firm commitment from Local Authorities to the funding of the construction phase of the RTS, Philip Hammond referred to positive engagement with the 3 Local Enterprise Partnerships and Thames Water all of whom have recognised their interest in getting the RTS built. Other Utilities have also been approached to provide funding.

As MP for Runnymede, Philip Hammond had engaged with all Leaders of the Local Authorities and was confident that there was now consensus on how Local Partnership Funding would be raised.

Mr Hammond said “I understand that some Councillors remain of the view that the RTS should be a centrally funded scheme but the principle of Partnership Funding is well established and Government must be fair to all parties. What Councillor is going to stand in the way of a £300m strategic infrastructure investment that will benefit so many? ”

Light at the End of the Tunnel

ThamesAwash Chairman, Chris Bertram summarised “ We have begun to see light at the end of the tunnel. Although there remain many challenges, the RTS has now achieved the status of an ongoing, funded project. This is hugely important.”

“It is our job at ThamesAwash to ensure that the funding momentum continues to grow. To all of us concerned by the threats to personal safety, property values and insurance posed by flooding, it’s perhaps the end of the beginning. But let’s not forget that completion of the RTS is statistically at least 2 more flood events away. It is vital we maintain the pressure”

“We will continue to lobby on behalf of all those affected to ensure that the scheme is a net benefit to them, is designed and operated optimally, and is completed as quickly as possible!”

 

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