In this page
Martin Buckle (MB) Chair
Paul Williams (PW) NFU Cymru
Darren Thomas (DT) Pembrokeshire County Council
Paul Blackman (PB) Wallingford Hydro Solutions
Anne-Marie Moon (AMM) JBA Consulting
Jeremy Parr (JP) Natural Resources Wales (NRW)
Mike Wellington (MW) Waterco
Natalie Haines (NH) Mott MacDonald
Geraint Edwards (GE) Conwy County Borough Council
Karen Potter (KP) Open University
Dominic Scott (DS) Dwr Cymru – Welsh Water
Jean-Francois Dulong (JFD) Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA)
Robin Campbell (RC) Arup
Welsh Government (WG)
Leanne Llewellyn (LL)
Clare Fernandes (CF)
James Jewell-Edmonds (JJE)
Julie James, Minister for Climate Change (MCC)
Alys Morris (AM) Severn Estuary Partnership
Tim Brew (TB) Pembrokeshire Coastal Forum
Rhodri Lloyd (RL) Ceredigion County Council
Ben Kathrens (BK) Carmarthenshire County Council
Catherine Wilson (CW) Cardiff University
Andrew Stone (AS) Rhondda Cynon Taf CBC
1/2. Apologies and introductions
The chair gave the apologies and introductions were made.
3. Declaration of interests
RC noted work on behalf of Arup and AMM on behalf of JBA Consulting regarding the National Infrastructure Commission for Wales (NICW) report.
4. Minutes of the meeting 06.09.23 and matters arising
Draft minutes had been circulated for comment and subsequently published.
The minutes were agreed.
Noting matters arising:
- Page 2 - write to NRW regarding the communities at risk register: MB indicated that this has been sent, along with copies sent to members. Discussions have been held with JP on making presentation on this at the next Flood and Coastal Erosion Committee (FCEC) meeting.
- Sub-committees – agreed membership and ToR at the last meeting; agreed to establish a S19 sub-committee in which DT has agreed to act as chair.
- Research Sub-committee – 14th December will be the first meeting; MB to discuss agenda with JFD.
- Actions – Item 12: MB has been in communication with the MCC, WLGA, NRW and Welsh Water with a view to discussing the Committee’s Resources Report further. Action for LL to invite Welsh Government (WG) education colleagues which LL will action for the next FCEC meeting.
- S18 report – further comments received from members since the last FCEC meeting; this will be covered in agenda.
5. Chair’s announcements
The Chair made the following announcements:
I would like to update the Committee on the meetings and events that I have attended since our last meeting. In October, I met with representatives of Miller Research, who are acting on behalf of the National Infrastructure Commission for Wales in taking forward the Resources Workstream. This led to their attendance at the Resources Sub-Committee meeting on November 1st.
Also in October, I met with Peter Fox, who chairs the Flood Risk Management Committee within Natural Resources Wales.
In November I met with representatives of the Pembrokeshire Coastal Forum and the Severn Estuary Partnership ahead of their presentation today.
I have also maintained my dialogue with colleagues in the Law Commission and have extended an invitation to them to be represented at the next meeting of the Committee in February.
Looking ahead, in December I will be attending the quarterly meeting with the Chairs of the English Regional Flood and Coastal Committees. The meeting will have a particular focus on surface water flooding.
My next meeting with the Minister for Climate Change is scheduled to take place in January. Since our last meeting, I have written to her to expand on two issues raised within our Resources Report, focusing on revenue funding and on the staffing resources of the Welsh Government’s own planning and flood risk management teams.
6. Items from the regional groups
DT provided an update on behalf of the South West Regional Group – the Swansea and Carmarthen Bay Coastal Group met on 14th September in Mumbles, covering updates on the Wales Coastal Monitoring Centre (WCMC), which included the appointment of a new coastal officer to the group. The officer has been sending requests for Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) updates to Local Authorities (LAs), which is positive. There are also active discussions regarding the SMPs. The Regional Flood Risk Management Group met on 12th September, for which BK will provide further detail.
JFD updated on behalf of the South East Group – the group met a couple weeks ago, with initial discussions on how to feed back to the FCEC, noting feedback is too technical and granular at present, so the group considered how to be more strategic, noting some key themes to report on aligned with FCEC work programme. The group also highlighted overlap with the feedback given to the Programme Board. There was a good discussion around development of local strategies in the current climate – it is likely that only 30% of LAs will meet the March deadline; capacity and lack of prioritisation has likely led to delays. A further productive discussion was held around the detail to be included in the local strategies, including financing and investment. An item on the WG SuDS review was raised and a further brief discussion on the British Red Cross report and presentation was had – LAs were keen to ask questions on this. Lastly, moving forward everyone wants to work better together and establish how to better share the work programme commitments among the RMAs for the year and continually look for opportunities to collaborate. MB queried the 30% local strategy completion figure, seeking clarity on the dates when the remainder will be available, noting this would be valuable information; request for JFD to feed back to the group.
GE updated on behalf of the North Wales group, which last met six weeks ago; an update was provided on the SuDS schedule 3, whilst the S18 report and S19 were also discussed as well as the NICW review and the NRW Flood Risk Management Plan. The overarching concern expressed by the group was around resource constraints and the delivery of flood risk management. The LAs reported good progress being made on the local strategy; however, concerns were raised around longer-term impact of the strategy being developed. There was also concern raised around the Revenue Support Grant (RSG), in that funds will not find their way into flood risk management. DS noted good attendance in North meetings - the group tend to disseminate information, but not necessarily get the support required; there is a need to make the group more efficient and draw on more strategic feedback. MB noted that perhaps it is timely to revisit and review how the regional groups work. JFD highlighted areas in which the groups can feedback, noting the need to prioritise. There is scope to review the Terms of Reference and embed in the work taking forward the FCEC Resources Report. DS observed that the groups are a good communication tool but not a delivery tool and can be utilised better. JP further added that this does not just apply to the regional groups, but coastal forums, the Wales flood group etc. – is there scope for some form of national briefing sessions? There must be more efficient ways to deliver messages nationally. Perhaps explore members from regional groups participating in the Committee? MB commented that this is something for discussion perhaps at the next Resources Sub-committee.
JFD provided an update on the workshop delivered to support the local strategies and costing of the action plans etc., noting a survey of LAs in which 25% felt they would meet the deadline; 10% are certain not to meet deadline; 65% uncertain on meeting deadline (although this 65% have probably shifted more towards not meeting the deadline). MB commented that getting a revised deadline confirmed will be particularly important and requested that this be relayed to the Committee and to the regional groups. Action JFD
JFD also noted that whilst there is no final decision yet, there is a need to inform LAs that there is an increasing risk of budgets going into RSG. A number of members noted that there is likely to be some discontent from LAs expressed on this.
7. Coastal Fora in Wales – Severn Estuary Partnership and Pembrokeshire Coastal Forum
7.1 Severn Estuary Partnership – Alys Morris, Severn Estuary Partnership manager
7.2 Pembrokeshire Coastal Forum - Tim Brew, programme manager education, skills and sakeholder engagement
AM and TB presented an overview of the work undertaken by the Severn Estuary Partnership (SEP) and the Pembrokeshire Coastal Forum (PCF), respectively.
PB – to what extent do you interact with WG strategically? Particularly the climate change division. TB – our interaction with that team is mostly through a consultancy partner; however, no direct channels with group and WG. LL offered to facilitate communication with relevant WG team.
JFD – I value the contributions of these organisations, which provide a breadth of work. The softer skills which can be brought into projects are key and can benefit delivery partners. The WLGA would welcome working closer with you going forward. MB noted that the Resources report highlights concerns around resources for community engagement.
DT – a personal observation from Pembrokeshire; having PCF on the ground with us has been helpful in terms of community engagement as an independent group. In terms of wider work with Public Service Boards (PSBs), it is again valuable to have PCF to provide resource and independence. In terms of doing the work, there are a lot of technical people involved, however we are sometimes lacking in having senior strategic guidance – trying to push things through at the right level can be difficult. MB noted engagement with the PSBs as particularly interesting.
JP noted that there are many groups interested in the national framework concept, albeit England-led with a Wales interest. AM noted that we are looking cross-border; we would like to expand this for the framework to include Wales. England has had good buy-in. JP noted that there is potential for NRW to have a role to facilitate. AM agreed and would welcome support – however, noted capacity concerns in the group at present. JP – NRW cannot offer resource but can offer support. JP noted observation on different dynamics and approaches across both the groups – supported by TB and AM. Inland areas and catchments would be important in expanding to implement a body as an agent to bring the groups together. RC – the point is about having a trusted facilitator; there is not currently a group that has the continuity to undertake this. PB asked what is the principal source of funding for PCF? TB – noted half is through variety of grant funding bodies, some direct WG funding.
DS – the adaptation plan interested me – you spoke as working under the umbrella of the PSB and planned to move to action plans – have you got a feel whether the PSB is the correct route for this? TB – we have now taken on a PSB sub-group; we plan to move forward with input from other members. DT – the sub-group report up to the main PSB; sub-groups are the engine that move work forward and pulling PSBs together can be tricky.
The chair offered thanks to the presenters.
8. Welsh Government Update – Dr Leanne Llewellyn, head of flood and coastal erosion risk management
LL provided an update on behalf of WG.
Regarding funding, there is currently no certainty over next year’s FCERM budgets; the First Minister (FM) has expressed concern over the decisions that need to be taken. We are hoping to have draft budgets by 19 December and hope to confirm budgets with you all by mid-February. On the RSG, it is safe to say that there is an increased risk that this will go ahead. The FM is keen to give the go ahead to provide greater flexibility to LAs. However, we appreciate your concerns; unfortunately, the discussions are now with senior leaders. Regarding this year’s budget, we are confident that we will have full uptake of revenue budgets; we are less certain on the capital programme and are looking at a full programme of reform. This will be discussed at the programme board meeting next week.
Claims for Q2 are already £1m under; we are nervous that we are going to see an underspend overall. On the Coastal Risk Management Programme (CRMP), there are three remaining schemes which are all proceeding well and will need to be awarded by March 2024; there is no scope for extension. The appraisals team have conducted training with RMAs which has been positive. The programme board are also running a series of refreshers on the claims and application process, along with appraisals team. I also want to acknowledge the S18 report and the huge amount of work that has gone into it; with thanks to NRW and LAs for feedback. MCC will be pleased to receive this.
On resources, we have a new flood finance officer in the team which is a positive. Regarding the technical appraisals for the north post, we are in process of recruiting a secondee; hoping for a start in the new year, with a full-time post to follow in spring. The two policy posts for NFM are interviewing soon; unfortunately, these will be two year fixed-term posts. LL noted MB’s letter to MCC highlighting concerns on resourcing in the WG FCERM team, which was appreciated. LL also noted Keith Ivens leaving the team after the end of his secondment; LL noted great appreciation for Keith in his support and his secondment has been very successful. LL further noted Head of Water moving on in the new year which may initially cause a bottleneck before post is filled.
9. Presentations from west Wales
9.1 Aberaeron Coastal Defence Scheme – Rhodri Lloyd, corporate lead officer, highways and environmental services, Ceredigion County Council
RL presented an overview on the Aberaeron Coastal Defence Scheme. RL extended an invite to the Committee to visit the construction of the scheme next year.
PW – from a fluvial point of a view, has any work been undertaken upstream to mitigate the risk? RL – no, this is primarily a coastal scheme.
RC – many authorities are delivering schemes such as this, is there an opportunity from a lesson’s learnt perspective and would there be value in reaching out to others in the CRMP programme so that they can learn from you? RL – not currently engaged but we would be happy to share our experience. We were grateful that CRMP was extended, otherwise we may not have been able to complete it – there were challenges we faced along the way and would be happy to share lessons learnt.
DT - any navigation issues in the harbour with the breakwater? RL – not too many issues from the harbour users, they were just happy they were getting a breakwater.
MB thanked RL for his presentation; we will bear in mind invitation to attend the scheme.
9.2 Natural flood management and sustainable urban drainage in Carmarthenshire – Ben Kathrens, flood defence and coastal protection manager, Carmarthenshire County Council
BK presented on Natural Flood Management and Sustainable Urban Drainage in Carmarthenshire.
DS – we have been looking at best practice examples – previously we at Welsh Water were a blocker to certain SuDS schemes; do you feel that the site discussed can be replicated elsewhere? BK – SABs are site-specific, not necessarily replicatory elsewhere. We need to use the features that we can at each site.
RC – with the housing association impact and viability, did this impact on their business model and is this also a model for adoption? BK – the adoption agreement was quite strong. When the legal teams become involved, it can bring a level of difficulty. Initially, there is a need to gain agreement with the legal team prior to engaging with the SuDS engineer. In Carmarthenshire, we aim to work with developers, not against them. However, there is pressure internally to move schemes along to align with grant-funding windows.
MB – regarding NFM, were there any planning / consent issues? What was the interface with the landowner and third sector? BK – very little interface with the third sector, which is a learning point and accepted as a blind spot. Land ownership engagement worked well; however, a parcel of land was owned in partnership which proved problematic. However, in general we approached landowners early and they were mostly amenable; we did not need planning consent in this instance.
KP – what are the biodiversity benefits of the SuDS scheme? BK – SuDS has four pillars; the two basins and green elements provide biodiversity elements. KP – it would be interesting to go back to the residents and seek their views on the SuDS. BK – our maintenance regime will likely lead to communication and interface, such as grass cutting.
JFD – regarding NFM being linked to planning - with Carmarthenshire being rural, engagement can be difficult; have you considered the single farm payment for NFM? BK - we need to find strategies of engagement with landowners and are open to ideas. MB noted that we should not underestimate how widely publicly owned land exists.
10. To consider the Minister’s response to the committee’s Legislative Change Report
MB provided an overview of the MCC’s response to the Legislative Change report.
Proposal 1 – the MCC welcomes dialogue with Law Commission (LC), however flagging that the processes can be lengthy, and it is not likely to see significant progress for a while. MB indicated that the LC are still very interested in this as an issue and are looking to recruit additional staff and open a Wales office. Further work for the Sub-Committee in working with LC needed.
Proposal 2 – regarding a national register of FCERM assets – creation of NAD should capture assets, in response. MB noted that the designation of assets is not working effectively and use is very limited; this is not fit for purpose in practice. JP commented that the NAD is a good idea but is hard to deliver practically – will discuss with WG on long-term use of it; thank you to cooperation from LAs, however, there are still some gaps in the NAD.
Proposal 3 – use of permissive powers – response to say not convinced this is a priority at present.
Proposal 4 – Wales-wide body to develop climate change adaptation – climate change strategy does have the potential to take this forward; however, NH challenged this. MB noted current climate change adaptation plan is for WG, not Wales, but next one will be. MB view to invite team back to speak at next FCEC.
Proposal 5 – linking into research programmes –MCC welcomes FCEC involvement. This will interface with new Research Sub-committee.
Proposal 6 – surface water runoff on agricultural land – consultation about to be launched; there is a case to invite agriculture colleagues to next meeting. The detail on the rollout will be critical in addressing this issue. JFD noted that it would be interesting to see how the governance of this will work. MB commented that it would be difficult to see this being effective without being addressed on a catchment scale. PW noted the biggest worry currently on the SFS is budget – there will not be resource to carry out work such as NFM if current budget constraints remain; going forward, a more targeted, catchment-based scheme would be welcomed.
Proposal 7 – best practice case studies – MCC response encouraged to discuss further on how to work with RMAs and WG officials.
Proposal 8 – TAN 15 – warrants further discussion with WG planning team. MB has written to head of division to request a meeting.
Proposal 9 – public rights of way / SMPs – MCC noted data already collected by NRW on the Wales coastal path. NH – how can this be found without being given the direct link? How do public get access to NRW evidence programme? Action JP.
Proposal 10 – Flood RE – guidance has now been published; Sub-Committee may wish to reflect on this. KP commented that this needs to be monitored. MB noted the need to understand the scale of the issue across Wales – this could be a very good research topic in itself.
MB commented that the response provided helpful and supportive comments. Inevitably some items are seen as more of a priority than others; the response will now be referred to the Sub-Committee.
11.1 Resources Sub-Committee – To receive the minutes of the meeting held on 1st November 2023
The minutes were noted.
11.2 Policy & Legislation Sub-Committee – To receive the minutes of the meeting held on 8th November 2023
The minutes were noted.
12.1 Wales Coastal Groups Forum report – Anne-Marie Moon and Jean-Francois Dulong
AMM and JFD provided on update on the Wales Coastal Groups Forum (WCGF) work programme and report.
AMM noted that stage 1 of the prioritisation mapping has been completed including 96 policy areas across the coast. There is little work done to date around understanding the life expectancy of assets and engagement with communities – how to get message across and implement is key. The WCGF have produced a climate change video which aims to raise profile of adaptation work. A political conference took place in July which was referenced at the last meeting. On SMPs, progress on action plans and the addition of coastal officers has helped this. There has been an increase in completed actions and reduction in blank returns, however, there has been an increase in on hold actions; we will work on this going into next year. Two coastal officers have been recruited. On the SMP refresh project – phase 1 was completed in 2020; next steps for coastal groups have been established as part of phase 2. There is work ongoing for LAs who want to look at changing policies; phase 2 involves looking at implementing sub-policy categories.
The WCMC is doing well and has managed to get more funding; 50% more surveys across Wales have been undertaken and they have employed an additional coastal scientist. The WCMC have also been leading on a ‘Coast Snap’ project, which is citizen science where people can take photos and coastal changes can be monitored. The key challenges going forward include the lack of resources, having to prioritise the SMP work and as such delivering phase 2 outputs will be a challenge. In addition, there has been a lack of scoping work for baseline data due to the resource constraints. Officer turnover and lack of expertise is also an issue – we need to think about how this can be managed. Lack of resource has also impacted the readiness to communicate with coastal communities; a lot of emotional response to coastal change needs to be managed and funding found. On the SMP Refresh, there is a need for consistent methodology for the four coastal groups to work to put action plans in standard format – having coastal officers will likely help with this. On hold items are also an issue and there is a need to address this. Finally, currently 25% of where the change in policy involves private landowners needs to be taken into account. Going forward the forum is working on a communication plan to ensure the coastal groups will be linked up. The coastal forum is going to continue to prioritise action plans, making sure they are followed up with coastal groups.
RC queries whether the WCMC work is continuing as planned this year? JFD responded that the current business case goes to 2025 and they are currently in the process of developing a new one in the next financial year, however, this will be dependent on the budget announcement. LL confirmed uncertainty at present.
NH asked if we are confident we have copies of all SMP2 documents in a public place? It is important to maintain all elements, such as the baseline / meta data, on top of the reports. JFD noted that all coastal groups have now got an updated website, with maps centrally hosted by NRW which provides an overview; on the SMP Portal, NH highlighted the need to ensure sources (i.e., coastal groups) have everything.
MB was struck by the contrast between 2020 and 2022, which demonstrates how much work has been done on actions; JFD obtaining WG funding to get an officer in post has been pivotal to this. There must now be a lot more confidence in the actions and their status. JFD commented that this also ensures they are meaningful actions.
12.2 Managing Flood Impacts in Wales 2050: Review by the National Infrastructure Commission for Wales – To receive an update – Jeremy Parr
JP noted that the timeframe for this work to be delivered is by September 2024. Four workstreams were identified which are being taken forward, with further detail included in the corresponding paper.
Workstream 1 – 2050 vision – ARUP is leading this work. Workshops taking place next week. National workshop in January. RC noted an interest in the process – next week workshops will focus on lived experiences of non-experts. National workshop invite extended to Committee. Expecting good engagement with communities.
Workstream 2 – strategic and spatial – led by JBA with a focus on a catchment-based approach, which is welcomed. Learning from experiences of organisations who have gone through it – offer to members to get involved with workstreams; contact JP for way in.
Workstream 3 – resources – Miller Associates leading. The scope recognises there has been a lot of work on this, with a push towards adaptation and resilience – financial and human resources not there at present. Identifying blockers and enablers is ongoing.
Workstream 4 – land use planning – topical with TAN 15, again led by JBA – what is the data saying? Where is the data? What can you infer from this data? Hope to shine a light on the data gaps in this sector.
Work planned July 2023 through to April 2024 – beyond this, commissioners will look at the output, then draft a report by Sep 2024.
JFD commented on workstream 3 – originally we wanted to invite LA officers, but we suggested engagement with cabinet members and chief members from authorities – keen to get something moving along those lines with that audience.
12.3 Committee Work Programme - To receive the report of the chair on the update of the work programme, and to consider the recommendation that the updated work programme be approved
MB noted that there are not significant changes to draw the Committee’s attention to at present. The report was agreed.
12.4 Report under Section 18 of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 – Jeremy Parr
JP highlighted that the S18 report is complete and was sent to the MCC this week. Thanks to everyone who contributed to this. Thanks also to this Committee for its comments – we did look again at the categorisation of the measures as a result of the feedback; 13 of 24 measures in the national strategy were identified as complete as part of this process – this can be seen as good progress, but clearly more work to be done.
JP noted the first point to focus on is that there should be interpretation of the data and analysis of the state of the data – NRW are asked to provide a factual reporting against the strategy; going into trends is outside the scope. The intention of this report is to act as a source of information for people to utilise. Another point around the lack of planning data, which has come up in previous S18 reports, ties in with NICW work which is an important link. Another general point, on community engagement, is that we recognise that this is in area where more can be said, but use of case studies in the report aims to remedy this. Quite a lot of the measures have now progressed. With regards to next steps, a conversation with WG is needed to discuss a future national strategy / measures refresh.
Several reports were published by NRW this Autumn such as the FRMP, which led to good publicity. One reflection on these is that it was interesting to see media reaction – i.e., there is a lot of work, but not much money to do it – this was not our aim, however, it is representative of the debate shifting from ‘defend’ to seeing this as long-term issue. The reservoirs report was also published, whilst we will also be publishing our long-term investment report (LTIR) – this may be of interest to many, and the publication date is imminent. This will look at the investment need from a capital position on flood defences with a 100-year horizon and will hit on some interesting points. Furthermore, it will open up the ‘what are we going to do’ debate, especially with regards to rural networks, which may be politically sensitive.
MB commented that it is evident that a huge amount of work has gone into producing these reports. NRW colleagues are to be commended for the response to comments made by Committee. KP noted that there is a measure around community engagement / resilience and highlighted the need to push on progress. JP replied that this would be something to consider as part of a potential national strategy refresh. NH queried the new asset management policy. JP noted that the work led to benchmarking around asset management; we were heavily reliant on previous Environment Agency policies, which needed updating. NH responded to highlight the importance to feed in the coastal elements of this into the SMP refresh. DS questioned what the LTIR impact would be on the Committee; view that this needs to be disseminated to Welsh Water – do we consider this at the Sub-Committee or discuss at next main Committee? JP indicated he would be happy to talk about it further at a future meeting, noting that in essence this is the same piece of work we discussed last year. There are further pieces of the LTIR we wish to explore. RC questioned what the role of the Committee is in this space; JP responded to indicate that the Committee does indeed have a role.
MB noted the NICW work ongoing, which could not be happening at a better time. Perhaps the role of the Committee would be to keep a close eye on the products of the NICW work. MB also flagged concerns around trends not being monitored, with no data etc. There is a land-use planning workstream in NICW and it would be interesting to see if this fills in the evidence. JP highlighted that the WG Planning Department provides the data. NH asked if this work picks up what is happening in England? I understand that they are in the same position, i.e., not knowing how many developments have got the green light. MB indicated he has not seen the data, however, if it was available, it may be concerning due to policy on building regulations on flood plains. JP felt this was topical in terms of TAN 15. MB commented that the absence of data and it not being collected routinely is a concern.
MB expressed a view that the national strategy needs to be refreshed now. There is good evidence on how effective the national strategy has been, however, as time passes its value diminishes, not only as it becomes out of date, but a number of measures have been delivered. MB noted an expectation from the Committee of a mid-term refresh, now nearly five years into the current national strategy. AMM asked should the Committee begin to plan how to feed into a refresh? MB suggested that beginning the conversation on the refresh early next year would likely mean publication in approximately 2025, so would be prudent as a mid-term review.
Julie James – the Minister for Climate Change
The MCC addressed the Committee, offering thanks for the commitment and work undertaken thus far by members, along with highlighting the current issues which will need to be addressed in the near future.
Questions / discussion:
JP highlighted the challenges of adaptation and resilience, versus limited public funding, which creates a dilemma of ambition versus reality. MCC responded by indicating the need to ensure we spend money on the things that make the most difference, and we use expert groups such as this to advise and ensure money is spent well. We have macro schemes, however, every time there is a storm, I receive questions in the Senedd on micro-localised issues, this needs balance. We need resilient criteria that RMAs can rely on. We need a consensus view on where to focus – in future, we will face increasingly alarming decisions on what / where to defend. The disconnect in some LAs between flood officers and economic / planners is concerning – the MCC noted again the importance of TAN 15 and that a pragmatic approach is needed everywhere. We need a forward-looking programme which focuses on the long term and is not left to political cycles. JP further highlighted the importance to build resilience into properties and make space for water as we cannot afford to defend everywhere all of the time. TAN 15 is important in highlighting where or where not it is appropriate to take such approaches. MCC agreed that we need to figure out a defence programme for specific areas and in some cases we will need to make difficult decisions.
DT commented that it is challenging to get communities to come with us; how do we get this message across? The MCC responded to highlight the need for a robust nationwide plan and the need to be able to show a holistic way; help people understand what the decision-making process is and what the criteria are. Again, this Committee is important as part of this process. DT commented that there are often different interests in a number of locations. The MCC responded to say as such we need as robust a plan as possible and achieve consensus, as we will not always be able to protect all communities around the coast of Wales – the FCEC is important in putting strategic plans in place alongside WG. If we can get the infrastructure plans in place in Wales over the next ten years, then people will be able to use them for adaptation and will outlive political terms and enable long-term planning. We need to have space to have conversations around the plan and have a consultation plan which we will need to put in place over the coming years. Communities will need to embrace resilience. MB commented that WG is likely getting criticised for the length of time on the TAN 15 publication; however, it highlights its importance more so. MCC noted the importance of achieving realistic conversations with achievable timelines. Part of the problem is we have got ourselves into a binary conversation, but this it is not appropriate as the issue is complex and requires consideration.
NH asked how will the robust plan be financed? With removal of EU funds and CRMP finished, how much are the government looking at next CRMP or what is the next mechanism? MCC noted that there are structural problems at present, i.e., roads can be built with structural money, but not water. Part of this is understanding what the pipeline looks like; we need to have robust plans in place prior to having investment in place and understand what its implications are and why it is important to fund it. Maybe there is a different model again, such as Scetion106 type contributions – we must do something of this sort it would seem. NH urged not to wait until final numbers are received; we need to be innovative and look at financial challenges, and some horizon-scanning is required prior to publication of a report to get ahead. The MCC noted the aim to give access to specialist legal support for LAs / planners. We have engaged with the global coalition of non-UN state governments, and we got a better result in the biodiversity COP due to work with this coalition. We have also been working with the World Bank and others to try and obtain green funding without any association with greenwashing. In theory, there is nothing to stop flood and water resilience infrastructure being funded by this money.
RC noted the many references to TAN 15 – what do you see as key blockers between now and publishing and how to overcome them? MCC noted that we are currently in discussion with NRW to define what a defended zone is and what is in place. TAN 15 is likely to be an end of the financial year publication. We are trying to get to a point where there is very little divergence on these terms, i.e., the Swansea current flood defence is inadequate, and we need to establish what needs to be in place prior to saying Swansea City Centre is a defended zone. There is no way we can put a TAN 15 out and say that Newport and Swansea cannot have any regeneration work done without flood defences being made – this is not feasible. KP asked if there is any cross-party consensus on moving forward on resilience? The MCC responded that political consensus is often more common than people think, with cross-party working and shared agendas, i.e., the Clean Air Act, we had a consensus all the way through, until it was finally rejected by opposition in the final moments, despite working productively in Committees leading up to the vote. The MCC highlighted the inter-Ministerial group on Monday with the UK Environment Minister, in which there is likely to be much consensus prior to moving to contentious issues at the end. The MCC also wished to highlight that there is a lot of cooperation cross-border.
JFD raised the need to promote flood risk management as a priority with LA leaders – how can we engage with them and gain buy-in on flood risk management as a priority? The MCC responded that TAN 15 has done this in bringing flood risk management to the fore front and has put this onto the political register in highlighting that you cannot have economic development without addressing the climate crisis. If we can sort out the issue of what a defended zone is and a universal understanding of what it means, it would be beneficial. JP commented that it is really helpful to have these discussions and debate, and TAN 15 is teasing this out; on the point of residual risk, we as NRW are keen to clarify that defences are never a guarantee and, as such, consideration needs to be made about resilience measures – no carte blanche that an area is defended. The MCC replied that it is key to ensure councils understand that it is a wider piece that makes places more resilient. It is worth having the conflicting conversation to start with to get to a better place.
PW commented that he was glad to hear that the MCC attended the phosphate industry summit - my industry will be pleased and glad that there is no finger-pointing cross-industry. The MCC responded that both farming unions were in attendance at the summit and noted a well-received presentation from a farmer in which he spoke about micro-solutions in the Usk and Wye catchment, which have made a significant difference in how phosphates run off their land. The MCC urged the Committee to respond to the SFS consultation. The MCC noted a very productive conversation at the phosphate summit and offered to share the presentation with the Committee.
AMM drew attention to large coastal defences which are carbon heavy and that lower carbon opportunities tend to be higher cost and we have funding issues – how can this be tackled? The MCC noted that for this we heavily rely on expert advice, such as from this Committee. AMM commented that the approach feels quite cost driven at moment; is there anything we can do policy-wise to plan a different approach? The MCC would welcome a conversation on this and requested further advice to be shared.
MB indicated that the Committee had discussed the MCC’s response to the Legislation report and the subsequent encouragement to work with the Law Commission – it is interesting that Chair of the Law Commission has outlined plans to open an office in Wales; is this can indicator that our intention of FCEC is more likely to happen? The MCC agreed that this was a good indicator and noted this as an excellent opportunity to work with Law Commission.
RC noted that WG grant allocation is focused on protecting properties - should we be thinking more broadly than this? The MCC responded that this is for you to advise on as an expert Committee. If there is a good case to be made for protecting other things, i.e., landscapes / spaces, the Committee must write to me to propose this.
MB highlighted previous discussions on the national strategy - it has stood the test of time, but now requires a refresh, noting discussed timescales. The MCC responded that if the Committee were to advise this, then it would be considered, however, it is important to note the resource constraints within WG in order to enact this. MB offered the support of the Committee. MCC advised the FCEC to write to her and justify this as a priority, which would then be considered.
MCC expressed thanks for the invitation to speak at the Committee and appreciation for being able to meet the members.
13. Any other business previously notified to the chair.
DT noted that the ICE West Wales branch have a meeting on Tuesday 5th December. This will be an online event which can be booked via their website - DT to share the link.