A CAMPAIGNER has questioned whether floods funding has been spent in the right areas as a report evaluates the last five years of work. A report prepared by the National Audit Office (NAO) details that £111.58m has been spent on flood risk management in Cumbria in the last five years but it raises questions about the impact the funding has had on protection. In Carlisle there are currently 1,830 properties designated as having a one per cent annual chance of flooding, meaning the risk is medium to high. Allerdale, meanwhile, has 3,024 properties deemed to have also fit the same category of flood risk. Eden and Copeland have 2,189 properties and 1,416 respectively. The report also assesses the average condition of flood defences maintained by the Environment Agency, rating them as 2.5 out of a possible five in the county. It also looks at how many homes in Cumbria are now “better protected” since 2015. This figure is 1,569. The report suggests that the government is on track to achieve its target for better protecting 300,000 more homes from flooding by March but does not have a comprehensive measure of its progress in reducing the overall level of flood risk across England. It questions whether the homes better protected’ target is suitable for monitoring progress made. In the report the NAO shows that following the 2019-20 autumn and winter floods, the number of properties at risk as a result of the condition of Environmental Agency flood defences and other infrastructure assets increased by 171 per cent from 70,000 in 2018-19, to 189,000 in 2019-20. “Does better protection mean reduced risk or protection by eliminating the risk?” questioned John Kelsall from Carlisle Flood Action Group. “You can say it is better protected, but if it is only an inch of water we are protecting against then what is the difference? Protection is not the same as removing flood risk. Properties behind the protection, as Carlisle saw in 2005, can fail.” Mr Kelsall is also concerned about the increase in risk due to the drop in condition of Environment Agency flood defences. “Homes in Cumbria have a higher risk level than more urban areas because of the amount spent compared with the area.“We still have concerns about phase one of Carlisle’s flood scheme, particularly around Botcherby Bridge,” he said. “We still believe it blocks the Petteril more than Environment Agency engineers consider it to.” The true impact of the works will not be seen until we see another weather event like Storm Desmond, he added.

He also has worries about phase two, which focusses on the Sands Centre, Bitts Park and Dacre Road areas.

He says gravel should be removed to smooth the water flow.

Mr Kelsall questioned whether spending millions of pounds on capital projects instead of having a river system managed both publicly and privately is the right approach. Alan Smith, who was involved in the flood recovery in Cockermouth in 2009 and 2015 said: “Thankfully we haven’t had heavy rain like that since 2015 so everything that has been done has not yet been tested.” Mr Smith says the impacts of the flooding are still being felt. “As soon as people see heavy rain they think it’s coming again," he said. "It’s not just the damage. It is also the mental health side which has affected people really badly. It cut the town in two.”