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Leaders rally behind plans for national flood resilience centre

26 February 2020

Leaders rally behind plans for national flood resilience centre

Leaders have rallied behind plans for a multi-million-pound National Flood Resilience Centre in the Humber region.

Ark, a project led by the University of Hull and Humberside Fire & Rescue Service, will be the first centre of its kind, anywhere in the world.

Located in North Lincolnshire, Ark will provide the emergency services and responders with a controlled environment for simulated training in both urban and rural flood events, and includes a full-scale 120-metre-long street and a water rapids course.

The facility will also be a base for world-leading research and innovation, focused on enhancing business, societal and community resilience to flooding; vitally needed as the world faces up to a climate change induced doubling of flood risk by 2050.

It will act as a catalyst for the future co-location of other leading flood innovation and research focused on addressing this global challenge.

A joint bid has been submitted for Ark by the University of Hull and Humberside Fire & Rescue Service, backed by North Lincolnshire Council, and discussions have been held at the highest levels in Government to support the new centre.

Now, with the Budget looming, efforts have been intensified to turn overwhelming warm support into confirmation that the up-front capital funding required will be made available.

Independent analysis has shown the financial benefits to the nation would exceed the cost of Ark by many times, enhancing response and recovery and broader resiliency to flood events in the future.

Professor Dan Parsons, Director of the Energy and Environment Institute at the University of Hull, said: “The impacts of climate change are being seen right now.

“The devastating impact of storms Ciara and Dennis over recent weeks highlight the need for greater understanding, and more effective responses and recovery to severe flood events.

“Ark will prove to be a game-changer in how we tackle and recover from these events, which are only going to get worse as we suffer the consequences of climate change.

“It is about becoming more resilient to flooding as a society. We need to learn to get wet better and Ark will help us do that.”

If successful, Ark would underline the University’s position as a leader in research tackling the impacts of climate change and would place the UK at the forefront of global efforts to tackle the devastating effects of flooding on communities.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has estimated around 20 per cent of the world’s population will be at risk of flooding by 2050 due to climate change.

In the UK alone, 5.2 million homes and businesses are already at risk, making the case for Ark all the more powerful.

The Environment Agency has also recognised a national shortfall in the high-level skills needed to plan and adapt to our changing climate.

Ark will support a suite of education programmes aimed at addressing this gap, including a new Masters programme in Flood Risk Management at the University from September 2020.

Andrew Percy, MP for Brigg, Goole and the Isle of Axholme, raised the matter directly with the new Secretary of State for DEFRA, George Eustice, in the House of Commons on Monday, February 24 about the importance of securing funding for Ark.

He said: “My constituency is largely on land recovered by Dutch engineers and is therefore probably the most flood-prone constituency in the country.

“I urge the Secretary of State, given the particular risk that we have in my area, to look very closely at the proposal for a national flood resilience centre in Scunthorpe.

“The council has done its part in providing the land. The University of Hull and the Humberside fire service are providing funding.

“We need the Government to step up and provide funding so that we have a proper national centre.”

The Humber region is one of the most at risk of flooding of anywhere in the UK, with major flood events in the recent past. The University of Hull’s research into the Hull floods of 2007 was incorporated into the Pitt Review, which has set UK flood policy over the past decade.

North Lincolnshire Council would provide the site for Ark, close to Scunthorpe.

Council leader Rob Waltham said: "Local residents will remember the devastating flooding of December 2013 and this research facility will help to ensure that communities and business can be better prepared when flooding occurs.

"This would be a significant investment in Scunthorpe and North Lincolnshire and I am confident that an international research centre such as this will bring a whole sector of supply industries that could also see hundreds of well-paid jobs too."

Steve Topham, Director of service support at Humberside Fire and Rescue Service, said: "We know from experience just how essential it is to provide an effective emergency response in the event of flooding.

"The Ark will give fire and rescue services across the country, together with all the other responding agencies, a facility where we can prepare in a much more realistic way, as well as having access to a wealth of research and innovation power."

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