Defra's aim is sustainable development, ensuring that environmental, social and economic considerations are balanced and integrated. As a result most of the Department's activities benefit the locations which fall within the growth areas, either directly or indirectly. As well as Defra's own actions we can achieve a great deal by working with a variety of partners and through exerting influence on Government Departments and others.
The key Defra policy areas which have a direct impact on growth areas include waste and recycling initiatives, flood defence works, our wide-ranging rural development programmes and regulation of the water supply industry. Funding associated with these activities has not been exclusively earmarked for growth areas, and will be part of mainstream business delivery, not specifically as a result of growth area status.
Delivery is carried out on Defra's behalf by a number of delivery agents, including the Environment Agency, the Countryside Agency, Government Offices, local authorities, and the Rural Development Service, all of whom have a strong regional focus. We also provide support to regional development agencies, rural community councils, parish and town councils and the voluntary and community sector.
Turning to specific policy areas, the priority for flood defence is to optimise the protection of people and the reduction in flood risk as measured by net damages from flooding in relation to the funding available. Total Government spend has risen from £312 million in 1997–98 to £478 million in the current year and £570 million for 2005–06 and the following two years. Where growth areas might have a risk of flooding, in many cases they will already have benefited from investment to protect them to a high standard, e.g. in the Thames Gateway. These defences will be subject to a renewal programme. Where further investment is needed, the development partnerships will consider provision in consultation with the Environment Agency, taking account of Planning Policy Guidance Note 25.
The main source of funding for local authority waste management is the Environmental Protection and Cultural Services block of the central Government revenue support grant, which is allocated through the Local Government Finance Settlement using a population-based formula. Defra's waste performance and efficiency grant, which totals £255 million over the three years from 2005–06, is also allocated to all authorities using a population-based formula. Defra is currently considering mechanisms other than direct funding to assist authorities in growth areas in addressing the additional challenge they face in meeting their landfill directive obligations as a result of population growth.
The Environment Agency is the statutory body with a duty to secure the proper use of water resources in England and Wales. The Environment Agency's Water Resources Strategy looks some 25 years ahead and considers the needs of public water supply, agriculture, commerce and industry, as well as the environment, examining the uncertainties about future water demand and availability including the potential effects of climate change and different societal values. It takes account of the Sustainable Communities Plan where the numbers and locations of housing have been defined and recognises the impact that the growth areas will have on the water supply infrastructure. It concludes with a series of actions that will provide the right amount of water for people, agriculture, commerce and industry and an improved water-related environment.