URGENT talks have been held in London as town leaders call for help in finding £30m to protect thousands of homes from flooding.

Some of this money has been secured, but there is still a funding gap of £16m.

Richard Drax, MP for South Dorset led the delegation to the capital to meet DEFRA minister Therese Coffey, along with tri-council partnership chief executive Matt Prosser, leader of Weymouth and Portland Borough Council, Cllr Jeff Cant and strategic director Martin Hamilton.

The group hoped to win extra funds for flood relief in Weymouth – with the situation now so desperate that 10 per cent of the sea walls are at ‘imminent risk of failure’, according to Mr Drax. 

The bid comes after WPBC councillors spoke of their ‘outrage’ at a meeting in February when the borough received nothing from a £19.5m funding boost from central government to Dorset LEP, despite a bid being made for Weymouth’s flood defences. 

Communities secretary Sajid Javid has promised a review of how LEP funding is shared out across rural and urban areas – and chairman of Dorset LEP Gordon Page has spoken of his own frustrations about how the system is weighted.

The delegation was delayed by the General Election but took place this week.

Mr Drax said: “Weymouth needs to upgrade its flood defences dramatically.

“Almost every year there is severe flooding in the town, caused by extreme tides and waves. We must build up our harbour walls – almost 2.5km of them - and upgrade 6.9km of coastal flood defences. Without these improvements, 450 properties are currently at risk and these numbers will rise to 2,150 over the next 100 years.”

Mr Drax said that the 2012 collapse resulted in repairs costing the council £4.7m.

He added: “Tackling the immediate flood risk will cost  £30 million over the next 15 years, meaning there’s a funding gap of £16 million.

“These flood defence upgrades are of vital importance to Weymouth’s future development, partly because the Environment Agency will not allow building until a comprehensive, funded, flood defence programme is in place.”

Mr Drax said that the minister was ‘incredibly accommodating’ and, while she has not promised any immediate funds, she is awaiting a report on which she can base any decisions.

“Weymouth has the highest population density in Dorset and development land is in short supply because we are surrounded by water on three sides. We must concentrate on regeneration and creating employment space in the town, but all this is threatened by our vulnerability to flooding.”

Cllr Cant has previously said that the future of Weymouth hangs on a fairer funding formula.