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Flood defences construction is one sector which is likely to remain buoyant through the COVID-19 crisis - if sites remain open.

After the widespread flooding this winter, the Budget announcement to double spending on flood defences to £5.2 billion over 2021-27 underlined the medium-term potential for contractors in the sector.

But civil engineering and other contractors are already seeing a buoyant workload on coastal and river defence work, as private developers - as well as public authorities - opt to include flood defence work in new projects.

Short term opportunities

In the short term, flood defences construction contractors should also see opportunities from the £120 million which the government is making available through the Environment Agency to repair damage caused by storms this winter.

There is also scope for further long-term growth of work in the sector. The National Infrastructure Commission recently welcomed the boost to flood protection in the Budget. But it noted that it has repeatedly argued for extra spending to be complemented by the introduction of a national flood resilience standard - which would create further flood defences construction opportunities.

The commission’s National Infrastructure Assessment which looks at the country’s needs up to 2050 estimated that around five million properties in the UK are at risk of flooding. To put that in context, the £5.2 billion announced in the Budget to be spent on flood and coastal defence in England over six years will ‘better protect’ just 336,000 homes and non-residential properties.

Glenigan Construction data highlights a series of major regional flood defences construction projects which are in the process of being let or where work is set to start.
For example, the Environment Agency and Oxfordshire County Council has recently let a contract on a £150 million scheme, the WEM LOT 3 Oxford Flood Allevia project to reduce the risk of flooding around the city. VBA Joint Venture is the civil contractor on the scheme where work is set to start this autumn and continue for four years (Glenigan Project ID: 16218654).

Meanwhile at Tonbridge on the River Medway in Kent, a contract has also been awarded to VBA Joint Venture and work is due to start this autumn, on the £21.5 million flood risk management project at Leigh. The Environment Agency Southern Region is the client on the flood defence works where work is set to continue for 37 months (Glenigan Project ID: 15378581).

Regeneration schemes

Construction work to protect against flooding is also emerging as a key element of regeneration schemes. A £35 million project in Wakefield involving the conversion of Rutland Mills into a creative quarter of 9,290 sq m of space includes flood defences and a riverside pier structure. Tenders are currently being invited for the project which is due to start this summer (Glenigan Project ID: 16170075).

Flood defence and towpath construction work also form part of the £24 million Stag Brewery Development in Richmond-upon-Thames which involves over 400 flats and commercial units. Work is set to start later this summer and continue for 36 months (Glenigan Project ID: 20099374).

In the longer term, flood defences look set to feature as part of the significant government spending on ‘levelling up’ projects across regional economies in the north. Public consultation events have been taking place on The Hull Lagoon Project, a £1.5 billion scheme which aims to improve flood defences and create a new area for waterfront living on the Humber Estuary. Work is set to start in late 2022 and continue for the rest of the decade (Glenigan Project ID: 19381679).