Lesley Griffiths, Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs
This statement provides an update on the flood and coastal erosion risk management programme and outlines future investment in order to remain resilient to future flood events.
Flood and coastal erosion risk management remains a key priority for this Government. Since 2012, we have invested over £240m, with a further £47m from European funding, reducing risk from flooding and coastal erosion to over 12,000 properties, including over 10,700 homes, through schemes across Wales including in Swansea, Colwyn Bay, Borth, Rhydyfelin, Rhyl and Welshpool.
Many of these schemes also achieved additional benefits such as recreational improvements, biodiversity benefits, tourism and regeneration opportunities, incorporating wider benefits and partnership funding.
Wales has recently experienced some of the wettest periods on record, in particular during the winter, where we suffered widespread flooding across Wales including in Llanrwst, Tal-y-Bont in Gwynedd and Bontnewydd. Over the last government term, we also dealt with major floods in St Asaph, Tal-y-Bont in Ceredigion, East Rhyl and Aberystwyth. Our risk management authorities were challenged during these events, however, they responded well, working together to quickly recover.
We will continue to learn lessons on how to be better prepared in the future as such events will happen again. Our review into the coastal flooding put forward 47 recommendations for future resilience to flooding. Risk management authorities have been working hard over the past year addressing these and I will receive the final report in full from Natural Resources Wales (NRW) in July. We must continue to build our resilience to flooding and coastal erosion and improve our response when such events do occur.
We are continuing to sustain investment in flood and coastal risk management, spending over £55m this financial year on reducing risk and maintaining our existing assets. This includes commencing major new work in St Asaph, Roath, Boverton, Newport, Porthcawl and the A55 at Tal-y-Bont, Gwynedd. Work on this final scheme, which suffered flooding on Boxing Day, has already commenced and will be completed by October. Once completed, these schemes will reduce risk from flooding to over 3500 properties.
We are also providing local authorities with support for smaller scale schemes and to undertake work to repair damaged flood risk management infrastructure following the winter storms, during the last financial year providing £1.8m, and we are currently working with local authorities on further small schemes which will be completed during this financial year. Smaller schemes which make a real difference to local communities are just as important as large schemes.
Our investment needs to be developing flood risk management interventions which take account of future climate change and sea level rise. The Coastal Risk Management Programme is already doing just that by taking the Shoreline Management Plans, which identify our direction of travel for the coast over the next 100 years, and starting to plan and invest now. £150m will be invested in this programme between 2018 and 2022, delivered by local authorities to reduce risk around the whole of the welsh coastline. Planning and risk analysis for these projects is already under way. £5m is being made available for this work, this financial year, through the Wales Infrastructure Investment Plan. I am pleased to confirm 15 coastal local authorities have been awarded 100% grant funding to allow preparatory work on 39 schemes to commence.
We are working to ensure our investment creates better places as well as reducing risk. Ongoing improvements to the programme will see revised guidance for the appraisal of future flood and coastal risk management projects to ensure schemes align with the well-being goals and consider the wider benefits which can be achieved alongside flood risk management.
In terms of future flood risk management interventions, we need consider all options to reduce risk, not just the traditional hard defences, but also education, awareness-raising and the opportunities which can be achieved through natural flood risk management, including flood storage areas and tree planting to hold back water and reduce run-off further upstream or adapting coastal areas so our sand and dunes absorb the impact of storms rather than our communities and infrastructure. These types of schemes can also provide wider benefits and should be encouraged as an alternative, or alongside traditional schemes.
We need to continue to work closely with communities at flood and coastal risk to ensure they are aware of the risks they face and what they can do to help themselves. The work of Flood Awareness Wales is vital to awareness raising activities. To facilitate this, NRW are making ongoing improvements to flood maps to identify at-risk areas, allowing us to prioritise investment where it is needed and help to direct our development away from risk in the first place.
Further improvements to the programme will ensure we have a prioritised pipeline of flood risk management initiatives for future years. We are also implementing changes using recent legislation, including improvements to internal drainage boards, aligning policy and the programme to the Well-being of Future Generations Act and introducing a new flood committee. Flood and coastal erosion risk management is a good fit for many of the well-being goals and the principles of sustainable development, particularly in remaining resilient to future flood events and to the impacts of climate change.
In order to help drive integration and collaboration in flood risk management across Wales, we will be establishing the Flood and Coastal Erosion Committee later this year under the Environment Act (Wales). This committee will provide advice on flood and coastal erosion matters from all risk management authorities.
Flood and coastal risk management cuts across different government departments and portfolios. We must continue to lead by example in working collaboratively. Its interventions can provide wider benefits across different areas including health, tourism, regeneration and transport. Working and investing together can only lead to wider benefits being achieved and delivering more for the people of Wales.