Julie James MS, Minister for Climate Change
The arrival of Storm Babet on 20 October marked the first named storm to affect Wales this winter season. The heavy rainfall across large parts of Wales meant that Natural Resources Wales issued a Severe flood warning for the Severn, and several flood warnings and alerts across north and mid Wales. Similarly, heavy rain across southwest Wales in the days leading up to and during Storm Ciarán on 1 and 2 November brought high winds and further rainfall, resulting in a severe flood warning for the River Ritec in Tenby, a flood warning for the River Solva, and several flood alerts across West Wales.
I know how devastating the impacts of flooding can be – I would like to offer my condolences to the loved ones of the individuals who very sadly lost their lives across the UK during Storm Babet, and also my heart felt sympathies to those people whose properties were affected during both Storm Babet and Storm Ciarán.
I have been receiving regular updates from local authorities and as of 17 November 2023, the latest update of internal flooding to properties are:
- Storm Babet: 163 properties in Conwy (17), Flintshire (103),Wrexham (20) Powys (23)
- 23 October (in between the storms): Yellow weather warning for heavy rain for southwest Wales. 26 properties in Carmarthenshire.
- Storm Ciarán: 7 properties in Pembrokeshire (2), Carmarthenshire (2) and Neath Port Talbot (2) Wrexham (1).
I am grateful to our emergency services, Natural Resources Wales, local authorities and many others who worked tirelessly during and between both storms to minimise the impacts on communities where possible. I would also like to acknowledge the wider support from insurance companies in supporting affected customers. My officials and Natural Resources Wales worked closely with counterparts in the UK and Scottish Governments to ensure a joined-up approach, including through Local Resilience Forums which were stood up as part of the response efforts. Colleagues are undertaking a routine evaluation exercise to reflect on what worked well, and what could be done better during future named storms.
With the changing climate, we face more frequent and severe floods, rising sea levels and faster rates coastal erosion. We must be prepared to deal with longer, heavier bouts of rain on a regular basis. Events like Storms Babet and Ciarán are becoming less ‘exceptional’ and more ‘routine’.
We know it is impossible to stop or prevent all flooding, but we can and are indeed taking steps to reduce the consequences and help to create more resilience across Wales. This year we have allocated over £75m in Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management in Wales, the highest ever annual spend on flood risk management in Wales to date. As part of this £75 million package, we are making £34 million capital funding available to our Risk Management Authorities (RMAs). It is for RMAs to put forward proposed schemes for capital funding and I encourage local authorities to continue engaging with this process. We know that investment does work – for example, NRW estimates that over 1000 properties did not flood in the storms because of the investment they have been able to put in place.
However, flood risk management is not just about constructing robust defences. Revenue funding is also enabling RMAs to continue their work on awareness raising, flood investigations and warning and informing. Last year, we almost doubled our revenue funding for local authorities to £225,000 each, and I am pleased that we are able to offer the same level of investment again this year. Meanwhile, NRW provides support and advice through engagement sessions to improve resilience in communities at risk. Advice and support about how to join a community flood group, along with a list of organisations who provide support for flood groups, such as the National Flood Forum and Local Resilience Forums, is available on NRW's website. Community flood plans are owned and delivered by community members or groups and as of April 2023, there were 71 community flood plans across Wales. That’s 34 communities in South Wales, 14 in Mid Wales, and 23 in North Wales taking action to understand, prepare for and manage potential flood risks in their area.
It is likely that we will face further named storms like Storm Babet and Ciarán throughout this winter. Preparedness is paramount. NRW has practical guidance on what to do before, during and after a flood and I would urge you and your constituents to make use of this support.