January Storms and Coastal Flooding

14 January 2014

Article by Elfyn Henderson, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

Image from Flickr by Ben Salter. Licensed under the Creative Commons.

Image from Flickr by Ben Salter. Licensed under the Creative Commons.

The first week of January 2014 saw severe storm conditions hit the Welsh coast. The storms damaged sea defences and caused flooding to properties in a number of locations.

The worst hit locations include Aberystwyth, Borth, Barmouth, Caernarfon, Cardigan, Amroth, Newgale, Llanbedr, Newport (south east Wales), Deganwy and Porthcawl. An estimated 140 properties were flooded.

Six severe flood warnings and 54 flood warnings were issued, and over 23,000 alerts were issued to residents through the Flood Warnings Direct scheme. Natural Resources Wales (NRW) estimates that some 40,000 properties were protected by coastal defences.

NRW (and its predecessor, Environment Agency Wales) has spent £20 million on capital coastal flood schemes since 2006 (this figure does not include revenue expenditure to maintain the defences)

Welsh Government Response

The Minister for Natural Resources and Food, Alun Davies, visited Aberystwyth on 5 January 2014, where he committed to review coastal defences as a result of the storms. The review, led by NRW, was initially instigated following the flooding of the north Wales coast in December 2013, but has now been extended to cover the whole of Wales.

The Minister has said that the review will consist of two phases. Phase 1 will be a ‘swift review’ of the impacts of the flooding and the state of coastal defences following the storms, reporting by the end of January 2014. Phase 2 will look at lessons learnt from both the December 2013 and January 2014 floods and flood risk management in affected areas. It will include:

  • Details of the flood event, its modelling and forecasting;
  • Operational response from flood risk management authorities;
  • How defences performed, properties affected and estimates of those protected;
  • Impacts on infrastructure and resilience to future flood events; and
  • Lessons learnt; to enable better preparedness for future events.

The Minister intends for the Phase 2 report to be complete by April, subject to agreement between the partners involved.

The Minister has also said that, if appropriate, local authorities can make applications for financial support under the Welsh Government’s Emergency Financial Assistance Scheme. The Welsh Government is also in contact with the UK Government in relation to an application to the EU Emergency Solidarity Fund.

The Secretary of State for Wales, David Jones, has stated that the Treasury was unlikely to release extra money and he doubted EU funds would be available.

Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management in Wales

The Welsh Government is responsible for developing flood and coastal erosion risk management policy for Wales and largely funds flood and coastal activities undertaken by operating authorities, which in Wales are principally NRW and local authorities. The majority of funds are delivered to NRW, with some allocated to local authorities and research bodies.

Other organisations, for example companies like Welsh Water and Network Rail also invest in flood protection.

The Welsh Government’s National Strategy for Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management in Wales (November 2011) provides a national framework for flood and coastal erosion risk management. There is an obligation under the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 for NRW to report progress on implementing the strategy to the Minister and the first report is due in June 2014. The Act also requires local authorities to develop, apply and monitor Local Flood Risk Management Strategies.

Additionally, there are four Shoreline Management Plans covering the Welsh coast. A Shoreline Management Plan is a large-scale assessment of the risks associated with coastal processes and aims to reduce these risks to people and the developed, historic and natural environments. The four plans in Wales are:

  • Anchor Head to Lavernock Point (Severn Estuary) – cross-border with England;
  • Lavernock Point to St Ann’s Head (South Wales);
  • St Ann’s Head to Great Ormes Head (West Wales); and
  • Great Ormes Head to Scotland (North west England and north Wales) – cross-border with England.

The Minister has stated that the Welsh Government is investing over £240 million in flood and coastal defences over the lifetime of the current administration.

Further information:

The Minister’s written statement:Coastal Flooding – January 2014

The Minister’s oral statement: Recent Flooding in North Wales – October 2013

Research Service paper: Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management in Wales (July 2012)