Major report identifies ways to improve Wales’ resilience to coastal flooding

A major report published later today (Wednesday 30 April) by Natural Resources Wales will make 47 recommendations to improve Wales’ resilience to coastal flooding in the future.

This comprehensive assessment was commissioned by the Minister for Natural Resources and Food, Alun Davies, following the coastal storms of this last winter – the most severe Wales has experienced for decades.

A report released earlier this year that assessed the damage caused by the storms showed that for the vast majority of the Welsh coastline, the defences and the emergency response performed well.

However, this latest report has identified that the storms of December 2013 and early January 2014 seriously tested the defences, the response and the resilience of Wales’ coastal areas.

Wales is particularly vulnerable to storms of this kind and climate change projections indicate that the risk will increase due to more extreme weather in the future.

In order to meet the challenges posed by this increased risk, the assessment focuses on important work to further improve Wales’s resilience to storms of this kind.

The recommendations in the report, compiled with the help of all of Wales’ coastal Local Authorities, are drawn into six priority areas: investment, information, clarity of roles, assessing skills, community support, and developing local plans.

Since the winter storms, Natural Resources Wales workers have been repairing important flood defences at places like Porthcawl, Amroth and Newgale.

This work included repairs to a 50m breach in defences at Llanbedr in North Wales which have been completed in the last few weeks.

Jeremy Parr, Head of Flooding at Natural Resources Wales, said:

“The storms last winter provided a reminder of the damage they can cause to our communities, our economy and wildlife.

“These kinds of events do not happen often, but when they do the impact can be significant.  

"Whilst we coped well this time, climate change predictions indicate we are likely to see more weather like this in the future.

“We hope this report and its recommendations will help agencies, authorities and communities at risk to be even better prepared for when it happens again.  

"We need to increase Wales’ resilience to coastal flooding and be ready to respond to the challenges it brings, to keep our communities safe.”

Alun Davies, Minister for Natural Resources and Food, said:

“While overall our flood defences held up very well in the recent storms, there is no doubt that the severe weather caused significant damage and disruption to a number of our coastal communities.

“Scientific evidence suggests that these sorts of weather events will only become more frequent, so it is vital that we keep working to improve not only the resilience of our coast but also our response to severe weather incidents when they occur.

“I would like to thank Natural Resources Wales for their hard work in pulling together this comprehensive and constructive report and will now consider its findings in detail.

“I am determined to ensure that Welsh Government, Natural Resources Wales and local authorities continue to work closely together to build a more resilient coastline for Wales and the findings of this report will be vital in helping us to achieve this.

“Since the storms the Welsh Government has provided more than £10m to help affected communities recover from the bad weather.

“This includes £7.2m to repair damaged flood defences, £2.3m to support repair works to tourism and business, and a further £855,000 to repair damaged sections of the Wales Coast Path and provide extra regeneration funding to Aberystwyth.”

A bilingual copy of the report will be available on Natural Resources Wales’ website later today (29 April, 2014).

The report recommends action in six areas.

  • Sustained investment in coastal risk management
    Investment in flood forecasting, warning, awareness, response and recovery; investment in new flood defences and to maintain existing ones; calls for more certainty on budgets for flood risk management over a longer term
  • Improved information on coastal flood defence systems
    More complete and consistent information on all defences; information on condition, areas they protect and maintenance; to include information on man-made, natural defences and structures where defence is a secondary function ie promenades
  • Greater clarity of roles and responsibilities of agencies and authorities
    Better clarity to people and communities of who does what; enable more efficient and effective delivery for communities
  • Assessment of skills and capacity
    To determine if and where gaps exist in risk management authorities like Local Authorities, Natural Resources Wales, emergency response services etc to improve management of coastal flood and erosions risks

More support to communities to become more resilient
More ‘self-sufficient’ communities in the future; enable communities to respond to flood warnings; enable communities to manage their flood risk in the future with support from relevant agencies.

Delivery of locally developed plans for coastal communities Increased understanding flood risk; enable communities to better adapt to increased risk due to climate change; these plans will be supported nationally and sit alongside Shoreline Management Plans.

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