Alun Davies, Minister for Natural Resources and Food
On 9th January I made a Statement in response to coastal flooding incidents and asked Natural Resources Wales to coordinate a joint review across all Welsh coastal authorities. Today, I publish the first part of this review which focuses on the impacts, damage and the costs of repair and restoration of coastal defences following the storms of December 2013 and January 2014. It also considers the areas protected as a consequence of the national network of coastal protection and defence infrastructure.
I am pleased to announce total funding for flood repairs of over £4.6 million in this financial year. Working with the Finance Minister, who is co-ordinating the financing of the Welsh Government total response to these major challenges, and my colleagues the Minister for Economy, Science and Transport, the Minister for Culture and Sport and the Minister for Housing and Regeneration, I want to ensure that our communities remain resilient against such events. I announced £2 million for emergency repairs on 22nd January. I will now also provide a further £1 million of grant funding to help restore the coastal protection damaged during the storms. As a Government, we are committed to working with local authorities and Natural Resources Wales to address the remaining costs of repairs to coastal defences identified in the review.
This support, including £1.6 million to assist storm-hit tourism and business, will ensure that our coastal communities can fully recover and remain resilient against ongoing storms and future events. In addition to the £4.6m package of support for this financial year, the Welsh Government is considering funding options to address the remaining costs for coastal repairs identified in the review over and above those flood risk management schemes already planned for 2014/15.
In addition, we will also be supporting repairs to the Wales Coast Path, an important tourist attraction.
I would like to thank Natural Resources Wales for working closely with local authorities, utilities and relevant partners to put together the first part of this review in a short timescale and present a Wales-wide overview of these coastal flooding incidents.
The storms and associated coastal conditions on the 5th December and in early January reached levels and a ferocity we have not seen for many years. The impacts were widespread and have caused significant disruption to our coast and local communities. During the flooding that occurred in December, 155 properties, predominantly in Rhyl, were flooded with a further 150 properties affected in January. Coastal defence structures were damaged at over 150 locations and over 1400 properties were evacuated around Wales.
Whilst damage sustained has been substantial, it is important that these impacts are considered within the context of what was protected by the national network of coastal defence infrastructure. Less than 1% of the properties and agricultural land at potential risk experienced flooding during these storms. The fact that they did not was a result of substantial investment in flood and coastal protection around the Welsh coast in addition to improved forecasting, awareness and resilience to flooding in our communities.
This assessment of the number of properties protected from coastal flooding shows:
- In excess of 24,000 properties could potentially have flooded across the North Wales coast in December and;
- In excess of 50,000 Welsh properties could potentially have flooded during January;
- Approximately 34,000ha of agricultural land was protected in January.
Both flood incidents were caused as a result of a storm surge and high winds combining with high tides. In December, the peak sea level recorded in Liverpool Bay was the highest recorded in the 21 years since tidal gauges were established. The January peak levels recorded at Milford Haven, Newport and Barmouth were the highest recorded since 1997.
Estimates from local authorities and NRW have revealed that the cost to make immediate repairs to coastal defences is around £8.1million. In addition to the costs to repair defences, local authorities have identified other costs associated with damage caused by the storms at around £3million.
Many of the emergency repairs required to defences have already been completed and it was reported that these stood up well to the latest high tides and storms in early February, particularly in Aberystwyth, Borth and Aberaeron. I am extremely grateful to all involved in ensuring that these crucial repairs were completed in time and ask that applications for immediate coastal funding associated with the storms are sent to my officials.
Despite cuts in funding from the UK Government, Welsh Government is increasing its flood and coastal erosion budgets. We are investing over £240 million in flood and coastal defences over the life of this Government. In addition to this we will receive over £50 million from the European Regional Development Fund, reducing the risks for over 7,000 homes and businesses across Wales.
Sea level rise and climate change will mean that such severe storms will become more frequent and have an increasing impact upon our shoreline. We must acknowledge that it is not affordable or sustainable to defend the entire Welsh coast. Instead we must take a risk-based approach to our work in flood and coastal erosion management, building resilience around our coasts and working with others to respond to these challenges.
Reviews such as this are important to ensure that we understand the impacts across the country and learn lessons to enable us to build resilience in our communities and reduce risk where possible. This will help us to become better prepared for such conditions when they occur in the future. I am grateful to Natural Resources Wales and our local authorities for their work to date, the second part of the review will now go on to look in more detail at the events, our response and recommendations for the future.