Lesley Griffiths AM, Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs
The Welsh Government has worked with the Senedd to reprioritise government business to reflect the unprecedented nature of the Coronavirus (COVID 19) crisis. While this statement is being issued to update members, COVID 19 related Written Statements will continue to be issued as a priority.
Whilst our communities, businesses and the public sector are facing unprecedented challenges as a result of COVID-19, it is crucial we continue to manage flood and coastal risk as effectively as we can. The flooding Wales suffered during February was the worst in a generation and brought into sharp focus the importance of our flood and coastal risk management programme in protecting lives, homes and businesses.
I am today announcing the Government’s flood and coastal risk management programme for 2020-21 as well as an additional package of support to our Local Authorities and Natural Resources Wales. Our programme will bring forward more flood defence projects and develop a stronger pipeline of future schemes while increasing grant support for scheme preparation, coastal works and natural flood management.
I am pleased to set out a strong investment programme this coming financial year. It includes significant changes providing the support and flexibility Local Authorities and NRW require to accelerate the delivery of flood schemes and essential maintenance where it remains safe to do so.
It is for Wales’ flood Risk Management Authorities to ensure any monitoring, maintenance or construction can be carried out safely whilst restrictions on movement and social distancing measures remain in place as part of the Welsh Government’s response to COVID-19. In terms of flood risk management, the priority is on repairing assets damaged during recent flooding and progressing works which protect against immediate risk to life. In undertaking operational works every authority and their contractors will need to adhere to the latest Public Health Wales guidance to safeguard their workforce and residents, reducing the burden on the NHS.
We have already provided almost £3m for to support essential repairs to defences in response to the recent flooding. We need a holistic and focused strategic response however, if we are to effectively manage the longer-term challenges and additional pressures we face from climate change. I want to accelerate the pace of delivery for flood risk management activity and progress sustainable catchment approaches to deliver maximum benefit and improve the way we manage water.
I am today setting out a £35 million capital investment programme for 2020-21 alongside over £27 million revenue funding to support our flood and coastal activities.
New schemes will be needed in the coming years to help protect communities. Beginning this year I will be supporting all flood Risk Management Authorities with 100% grant funding to develop business cases, carry out consultations and draw up designs for flood and coastal schemes. This will enable them to progress more projects and steer investment towards construction and associated wider benefits.
I want to move faster on delivering natural flood management and catchment schemes throughout Wales. These approaches replicate natural processes to help protect our coastline and to hold back rain water in upper catchments, slowing the rate of run-off into our rivers and streams. I will be setting aside £1m this year to dedicate to such schemes, providing support at 100% grant rate to alleviate the financial risk on councils and NRW. These projects will be carefully monitored so we can share evidence and good practice to help promote and refine approaches that deliver the greatest benefit. My ambition is for Wales to lead the way with this work.
I am also increasing grant support for the construction of Local Authority coastal schemes to 85%. This commitment recognises the national importance of our coastal programme and the challenges we are already facing from sea-level rise and increased storminess.
Furthermore, I have removed budget caps on the total number of small scale schemes to be delivered this year, enabling a record package of £4.3m of works which rapidly reduce flood risk to our communities.
I recognise how flood and coastal risk management is more than just the building of defences. I am grateful for the huge contribution staff in Local Authorities, NRW, Dwr Cymru Welsh Water and Hafren Dyfrdwy bring to protect our communities. It is clear the impacts of February’s storms would have been far worse if it was not for their dedication and hard work in maintaining defences and responding swiftly to events.
I want to further enable Risk Management Authorities to continue this work and provide them with the resources they need. So, alongside the enhancements to the 2020-21 capital programme, I am also increasing the resource budgets to both NRW and Local Authorities, ring-fenced for flood and coastal risk management activities. NRW will receive £21m, whilst Local Authorities will see a 50% increase in revenue support to complement their existing funding packages.
Effective forward planning and programme delivery is key to address growing flood risk. We will continue working with the Welsh Local Government Association to ensure Local Authorities have the resources they require to plan their future investment programmes and continue our support to the Wales Coastal Monitoring Centre who will receive £300,000 next year.
Together, the 2020-21 programme and revitalised package of support represents a renewed strategic approach to provide the support our Risk Management Authorities need, whilst accelerating delivery and building our resilience to climate change.
An investment package of £35m of capital works has been approved for 2020-21, with £9m being delivered by NRW, and over £17m allocated to Local Authorities.
This includes major investment in Abergele, Llanfair Talhaiarn, Rhyl and Prestatyn, Dyserth, Rhostryfan, Llanmaes, Cwmbran, Aberdare, Glynneath, Newport and a package of natural flood management projects across Denbighshire.
While recognising the huge challenges on Local Authorities, NRW and partners, the package of improvements help reaffirm our commitment to long-term support in response to the February storms. This package will help Risk Management Authorities get back on track with their flood schemes and reduce the financial burden facing many of them whilst still undertaking recovery work.
This investment underpins our commitment to deliver £350m of flood risk management activity over this Assembly term. We have listened to the needs of our Risk Management Authorities and are improving the way we support them to deliver the work needed to build resilience to flood events and reduce risk across Wales.