Fens2100+

Closes 31 Dec 2027

Opened 21 Sep 2023

Overview

Fens 2100+ is a new programme of work, launched in 2023 to enable the Fens to adapt to the challenges of climate change both now and into the future. 

This programme will develop a Fens-wide flood resilience investment strategy that achieves long-term value for money and generates regional and national benefits.


It’s being developed with, and for, Flood Risk Management Authorities so they can plan for the next 20-25 years of flood risk management. This investment strategy will be completed in 2025.  
                                               

The value of the Fens 

Managing water in the Fens is estimated to deliver in excess of £58bn worth of benefits – both through direct protection to people and properties, businesses, critical infrastructure, and agricultural land, and through indirect benefits to the local economy, for example through jobs, and the food and drink sector supply chain. 

The challenges in the Fens

Located across parts of Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire the Fens landscape is largely below sea level – meaning it’s at the forefront of climate change.

Water levels must be managed 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year by the Environment Agency and Internal Drainage Boards (IDBs). Living and working in the Fens is only possible because of around 17,000 flood risk management and water level management assets, such as pumping stations and defences.

Careful management reduces the risk to the local area, including 370,000ha of agricultural land, 400,000 people and 500km of road and rail infrastructure. Without these, the area would revert to marshy fens and lowlands, liable to frequent flooding from the sea and rivers.

There are several pressures in the Fens including agricultural demands, population growth, areas of socio-economic deprivation, water availability for people and farming, increased flood risk and sea level rise. We’ll need to invest differently in the way we manage water and flood risk assets in future because of climate change impacts.

Many of the flood risk assets were built in the 1960s primarily to manage the land for food production and will need significant investment to maintain them in the medium and long term. We know there’s a significant funding gap – addressing this funding gap is a core reason for undertaking the Fens 2100+ programme now.

Over the next 100 years, an additional investment of £4.5bn will be needed to manage flood risk in the Fens – that’s based on today’s cost and not accounting for climate change. Applying current flood risk management funding rules to that £4.5bn would mean about 50% of it would be funded, the rest isn't.

Why is Fens 2100+ different?

We’re making sure we support how we deliver flood risk management now, but we're also looking to the medium and long-term to try to determine what's the right investment we need to make across this landscape that achieves the outcomes that we all want – for people, the environment, and more widely.

This is also about making sure we are putting the investment in the right places, not limiting future choices, and helping this landscape adapt to climate change into the future – rather than just doing what we've always done.

Fens 2100+ is a partnership project between:

  • Environment Agency
  • Association of Drainage Authorities (ADA)
  • Internal Drainage Boards (IDBs)
  • National Farmers Union (NFU)
  • Anglian Northern and Great Ouse Regional Flood & Coastal Committees (RFCCs)

We’re responsible for developing a strategic case for continued investment in flood risk management across the Fens landscape and setting out the flood risk management investment choices required to ensure we have a vibrant and flourishing landscape, that’s adapting to the challenges of climate change.

"Ensure we invest in the right thing, in the right place and at the right time"
 

Summary of projects

Summary for the Fens 2100+ projects 

 

What timelines are we working to and which catchments are included?

We need to have the Strategic Case for Investment, the Catchment Baseline Reports and the Investment Strategies ready in 2026. This timeline ensures investment plans are ready in time to inform the next programme of spending on flood risk management – the 2027-2033 Flood & Coastal Erosion Risk Management Investment Plan. 

Read about the current (2021-2027) Flood & Coastal Erosion Risk Management Investment Plan. 

Fens 2100+ builds on the strategic work completed for the Future Fens Flood Risk Management Baseline Report (2020) for the Great Ouse

Map below showing the catchments covered by the Fens 2100+ Programme

Why 2100+?

Looking out to 2100 and beyond, we need to help local places better plan and adapt to future flooding and coastal change. This will mean being agile to the latest climate science, growth projections, investment opportunities and other changes to our local environment. Adaptative approaches enable local places to better plan for future flooding and coastal change and adapt to future climate hazards. 

As a nation we need to improve the way we integrate adaptation to flooding and coastal change into daily activities and projects, as well as long-term strategic investment plans and strategies for places and catchments. By doing so we can better equip practitioners and policy makers to make the best decisions, taken at the right time to benefit people, infrastructure, the economy and the environment. 

What's an adaptive approach?

An adaptive approach takes a flexible approach to investment which can adapt to changes when they occur, such as, new areas of growth or changes to climate change predictions. It will involve developing investment plans which confirm what flood and coastal risk management investment will be required over the next 20 years across the Fens.   

The investment plans developed through Fens 2100+ will inform future Environment Agency capital programmes from 2027.  

This strategy for investment across the Fens will inform funding, future efficiencies and partnerships and support the delivery of projects that aim to reduce the risk of flooding from rivers, sea, groundwater or surface water and/or to reduce the risks from coastal erosion. 

Read about British Standard Adaptation to climate change – Using adaptation pathways for decision making guide which helps organisations create long-term plans and make decisions within the uncertainty and risks of a changing climate. 

Will new flood risk management assets be created?

Although Fens 2100+ will not directly create any assets, the investment plans developed through this programme will: 

- Inform future spending (capital and revenue) programmes 

- Drive future efficiencies and realise wider benefits for people, places or the economy 

- Support collaboration and partnership working  

To find out more about the flood risk management assets and schemes in your area of interest, visit the Environment Agency’s asset management interactive map: Asset Information and Maintenance Programme (data.gov.uk)  

What's being done to integrate wider water management?

Water is an underpinning element of this landscape – taking an integrated approach to water management across the Fens is critical in a landscape which is at the forefront of both flooding and drought. To support this the Environment Agency is a sponsor in the Future Fens Integrated Adaptation (FFIA) Taskforce.

FFIA aims to bring renewed environmental, social and economic prosperity to a region facing unique challenges. It’s a collaboration between sponsors: Anglian Water, Water Resources East, the Environment Agency and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, along with 40+ regional partners.

FFIA aims to encourage all sectors managing water across the Fens to take a more integrated approach. To achieve this FFIA will: 

  • Develop a set of outcomes for the Fens, shared across all sectors
  • Set effective policy (and regulatory) recommendations for the Fens
  • Unlock funding opportunities across sectors to ensure climate change resilience and adaptation

Read more in the FFIA Manifesto 


Engaging with you

We'll share further information and updates as the Programme develops.

We'll be engaging with stakeholders throughout the Fens - please get in touch if you would like to find out more Fens2100@environment-agency.gov.uk

Audiences

  • Recreational and commercial river users
  • Fishing clubs and representative associations
  • Members of the public with an interest in the river, the species and conservation
  • Businesses
  • Charities
  • Statutory organisations
  • NGOs
  • Members of the public
  • Elected representatives, including MPs
  • Local councils
  • Academics
  • IDBs
  • Local authorities
  • District and parish councils
  • Environmental bodies
  • Land owners
  • Farming associations
  • Drainage associations
  • RFCCs
  • Elected representatives, including MPs
  • Water companies
  • Members of the public
  • Recreational and commercial river users
  • Community groups
  • Flood action groups
  • Environment Agency colleagues
  • Lead Local Flood Authorities
  • Local Risk Management Authorities
  • Flood Resilience Forums
  • Members of the public
  • Town and parish councils
  • Regional Flood and Coastal Committees
  • Internal Drainage Boards
  • Engagement specialists/operational staff in Natural Resources Wales, local authorities and other risk management authorities

Interests

  • Business and industry
  • Flood management
  • Coastal management
  • Fishing and boating
  • Water resources
  • Water quality
  • Drought
  • Habitats and wildlife