Lesley Griffiths MS, Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs
Over the last 12 months, communities, businesses and the wider public sector have experienced enormous challenges from devastating flooding, with some communities affected on more than one occasion. The impacts of the pandemic and the response to it has made coping with flooding all the more difficult.
The numerous flooding impacts on communities across Wales have again brought into focus the importance of the Welsh Government’s Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management programme in protecting lives, homes and businesses.
For individuals and families experiencing a flooding incident, I know it is a hugely traumatic event. I witnessed for myself the devastation flooding causes to homes and businesses when I visited communities hit by flooding. My sympathies go out to every individual who has been affected by flooding.
This Government does not believe individuals who were affected by flooding as a result of the severe storms of the last year should be left on their own to tackle the challenges or the consequences of domestic flooding. Therefore, we have awarded £500 to every household who experienced flooding, with an additional £500 to those households without insurance.
I would like to thank all those involved from the emergency services, Local Authorities, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and volunteers in their response to recent flooding events.
The flooding events over the last year highlight the fact we are now living with the consequences of climate change. In addition to addressing the causes of climate change, we must prepare and adapt communities across Wales to be resilient to the future consequences it will bring.
One of those consequences is the increased severity and frequency of flooding. To address this threat, I want to support our Risk Management Authorities (RMA) in bringing forward more flood alleviation projects and to accelerate the delivery of schemes.
In 2021/2022 we will invest record levels of capital funding totalling £36 million through the Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management programme, to prepare and construct flood alleviation projects across Wales. In total, I have allocated £17 million to NRW and £19 million to Local Authorities.
Some of the projects allocated funding in next year’s programme include Treorchy (RCT), Dyserth (Denbighshire), Ammanford (Carmarthenshire – NRW project), Rock Street (Neath Port Talbot) and Llansannan (Conwy).
Part of the £17 million for NRW includes over £7 million towards their core flood activities, which includes maintenance of existing assets, development of new schemes and mapping and modelling projects to better understand and communicate flood risk.
Our full capital programme is published on our flood webpages and will be followed by a map to help show the spread of schemes across the country.
I understand the financial challenges our Local Authorities have to consider when delivering flood alleviation projects, maintenance activities and flood investigations. Therefore, at the beginning of this financial year I increased Local Authority revenue funding by 50% from £75,000 to £105,000 and provided record levels to NRW reflecting their new measures in our National Strategy.
Despite the challenging budgets we are working within, for 2021-2022 I am maintaining the £105,000 revenue allocation for each Local Authority, totalling £2.31 million and NRW’s revenue budget at £21 million.
I am pleased to announce I am also maintaining support to the Welsh Local Government Association, Wales Coastal Monitoring Centre and the flood risk management committee.
In response to Storms Ciara and Dennis, I provided 100% grant funding for emergency repairs and improvements to damaged flood alleviation assets, totalling over £5 million. My officials are currently exploring the impacts from more recent storms and the amount of additional support RMAs require and I have allocated £4 million for these repairs.
In my Written Statement on 3 April 2020, I announced major changes to the flood programme, all of which I am taking forward into the coming financial year. In order to encourage a healthier pipeline of projects for future years, I will continue to provide 100% grant funding for all preparatory work towards new flood alleviation projects. This includes full support for developing Business Cases, conducting consultations and detailed design work. This will enable Local Authorities to progress and deliver priority projects more quickly by removing the need to find internal match-funding. This change has already proved successful with 33% more applications for the new financial year than the previous year.
Changes to the Small Scale Works Grant removing the limit on the number of schemes Local Authorities could take forward this year proved particularly successful, delivering 121 projects reducing risk to 1,670 properties. Due to the continuing success of this grant, I have allocated £4 million in the 2021-2022 budget for Local Authorities to utilise to undertake further small scale schemes. This is a substantial increase on the historical £1 million limit previously allocated to these works and reflects how we are developing our programme to support more projects and benefit a greater number of communities.
The £4 million will support 86 schemes across Wales, benefitting over 1,700 properties.
I also increased the funding contribution for the construction of coastal projects from 75% to 85%. Combined with my full support for scheme preparation, it means the 15% contribution towards flood and coastal alleviation projects now only applies to the construction stage, and greatly reduces Local Authority contributions for total project costs. Furthermore, this contribution can be reduced through partnership funding.
This Senedd term saw the introduction of the innovative Natural Flood Management (NFM) Programme. Projects within this programme are 100% grant funded for its first 2 years and it has received an excellent uptake from RMAs. I have now approved 15 NFM projects totalling £2.89 million, which will be monitored and evaluated as they progress. This will allow us and RMAs to learn lessons from each other and share best practice, allowing more NFM projects to be rolled out across Wales in future years. While we are no longer receiving applications for this current programme, we still encourage RMAs to bring forward NFM projects via our main flood risk management programme, and want to see such methods considered in all potential schemes.
This is my final Written Statement regarding the Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management programme of this Senedd term. During this term, the Welsh Government will have invested record levels of capital and revenue funding of over £275 million to reduce the risk of flooding and coastal erosion to communities across Wales. In addition we are supporting a £150 million investment through the Coastal Risk Management Programme with all its remaining schemes commencing in the next 12 months.
Over this Senedd term, the programme has delivered hundreds of individual flood alleviation projects the length and breadth of Wales benefitting over 45,000 properties. Major projects already completed include Newport, St Asaph, Borth, Rhydefelin and Llanberis.
Our ambitious Coastal Risk Management Programme is fully underway. Its first project in Aberavon has now been completed with two further projects now on site at Porthcawl and East Rhyl. The remaining projects are due to begin construction by March 2022.
Last autumn I published our new National Strategy for Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management. The ambitious new Strategy sets out how we will tackle flooding over the next decade alongside the growing threat of climate change. It clarifies roles and responsibilities, and introduces stronger objectives on prevention, preparedness and communication of risk. New flood mapping has been introduced alongside the Strategy which will be complemented by a Flood Map for Planning and a national database of flood defences later this year. This underlines our commitment to improve public access to flood data, not only supporting better development decisions, but helping people understand the risk to their own property, who owns and maintains our defences, and showing where risk has been reduced by new flood alleviation assets.
The Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management programme for 2021-22, alongside its success over this Senedd term reflects its priority status in Wales. This Government has invested record amounts of funding to directly alleviate flooding to those most at risk and through our National Strategy we have set in train the policies required to manage flood risk in communities, as we address the challenges of climate change.