Wales’ new flood and coastal Strategy sets out how we will help to reduce risks to communities and businesses across Wales and adapt to our changing climate.
The new National Strategy for Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management in Wales was announced by Lesley Griffiths, the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, today (Tuesday, October 20).
The Strategy sets out our long-term policies for managing flooding, as well as the measures which will be taken over the next decade by organisations like Natural Resources Wales, local authorities and water companies to improve how we plan, prepare and adapt to climate change over the coming century.
The Strategy looks wider than just the building of defences and reinforces how we must manage flood and coastal risk through a range of interventions and actions. It also recognises flooding as an issue which affects all parts of our society and one which requires a combined approach.
It outlines some of the lessons learnt from the flooding seen across Wales this year, and looks at the work carried out by the Welsh Government in recent years to tackle flood risk.
A key part of this is ensuring we don’t make mistakes now which could lead to greater risk for future generations. The new Strategy will help to prevent this by linking with new planning guidance due next year to ensure communities built in future are not put at avoidable risk.
The Strategy also emphasises how risk will be better communicated, allowing households to understand their own risk, consider how they need to plan for flooding, and be involved from the start in discussions on how to manage the risks to their community.
Part of the new approach to improving how we talk about risk is the Wales Flood Map, which launches today.
The Wales Flood Map will bring all together all of our flood and coastal risk mapping in one place, starting with the new Flood Risk Assessment for Wales (FRAW).
For the first time, this will show flood risk from all sources and incorporate coastal and asset information. The FRAW Maps will be updated every six months so people can see how our flood schemes have reduced risk, helping bring down the cost of people’s insurance and providing peace of mind to those communities affected.
This will be joined by a new Flood Map for Planning and clearer planning advice next year, allowing authorities to make more informed decisions on development and provide a more complete understanding of risk.
In launching the Strategy, Ms Griffiths said:
I witnessed first-hand the devastating impacts of the floods that affected over 3,000 homes and business across the country. As the likelihood of these extreme weather events rise, we need to strengthen our approach to managing flood and coastal risk and adapt to help keep people safe.
This has strengthened my resolve to reinforce our commitments on flood prevention, resilience and climate adaptation. I want Wales to lead the way with this work and this is reflected in our new National Strategy.
The Strategy sets out how we will make the right decisions as we look to protect people, homes and businesses from increased flood risk. We are making significant changes to help accelerate delivery and better communicate risk. These include additional funding support for alleviation schemes and all-new flood risk maps.
We are already seeing the benefits of our new approaches. The improvements I made to the Flood and Coastal Programme in April were planned to come alongside the new National Strategy but were brought forward to help get support out to communities as quickly as possible and to encourage new schemes and essential maintenance work wherever it was required.
The Minister added:
I want the Strategy to spark conversation about how we manage flood risk. We are delivering more than ever in this space, with record levels of investment, but we cannot stop all flooding. I also recognise how this Strategy is being launched during uncertain times – not only due to the pressures posed by COVID-19, but also due to our ongoing response to recent flooding events.
As such, I want to make sure we are clear in our messaging and maximise the impact of our investment. This will help everyone across Wales understand how they can play their part in reducing risk in the coming years.
Between 2016 and 2021, the Welsh Government has invested £390million into helping manage flood risk, reducing risk to more than 45,000 properties across Wales.
Following this year’s flooding, the Welsh Government has also provided more than £4.4m for flood repairs.
The recent changes to funding include full support for preparing and designing new flood schemes, raising grant rates for the construction of coastal defences to 85%, and the introduction of a new £2m natural flood management programme.
This is also the first National Strategy to incorporate Welsh legislation on the environment, wellbeing and sustainable drainage. It has also been supported by the Flood and Coastal Erosion Committee who were instrumental in helping shape and strengthen the document through consultation.
Martin Buckle, Chair of the Committee said:
The flood events earlier in the year showed how the climate emergency is affecting ordinary people in communities and businesses across Wales, highlighting the urgency of strengthening our resilience.
The new Strategy also emphasises, with rising sea levels, the priority needed for long term planning and action in coastal areas, especially given the importance of the coast for our communities, businesses and the environment.
The new National Strategy represents a huge step forward in providing the leadership required to tackle these challenges. The Committee is determined to play a full role in getting the Strategy implemented. A wider and continuing dialogue is needed throughout Wales about how we respond to flood risk, and the new Strategy provides the ideal basis for this.
The commitment to early action is welcome, but all parties will now need to work together to ensure an effective, longer term multi-year programme can be put in place.