Communities need protection, say Welsh Conservatives.
Speech to the National Assembly for Wales
"According to 'Flood Defence Arrangements in Wales—The Future', it is estimated that, over the next 50 years, flood damage could increase by 50 per cent for river flooding and in excess of 200 per cent for tidal flooding.
It also states that the complex coastal defence networks are at particular risk from the potential impact of climate change.
You will know from our correspondence, Minister, that, in respect of coastal flooding at Towyn in Gwynedd, the independent consultants ABP Marine Environmental Research Ltd, which were appointed by Gwynedd County Council, have found a unanimously accepted way forward.
A new sea defence system now needs to be constructed, which will allow Towyn beach to be retained as a tourism amenity, which is so vital for the local economy. You will also be aware that this important scheme will require funding other than that provided by the local authority.
Realistically, if total funding was immediately forthcoming, this construction could be completed by December 2006. I would stress that the people of Towyn cannot afford to wait long.
You mentioned climate change, and ABP has reported that the Victorian seawall, a masterpiece of civil engineering though it is, may not hold up under the constant battering of winter storms and occasional freak waves, which have been experienced by this stretch of coastline over the last 20 or so years. I therefore urge you, Minister, to seek encouragement for funding this construction.
Following the devastating floods in the Conwy Valley last March, we eagerly await the Environment Agency report in July to see what action the agency and the local authority will take to ensure that damage does not occur again.
You mentioned that your Government has reached the conclusion that, in Wales, the flood defence service should continue to be provided primarily by the Environment Agency, though in a single flood defence committee structure.
Many people have told me that they would prefer three regional committees, which would allow for local input, and we would like to see this discussed further.
In its review, the Environment Agency must ensure that adequate flood warnings are given in good time.
In the case of Trefriw last February, Mike Davies of the Environment Agency said:
'We were unprepared, bearing in mind that there hasn't been a serious flood in Trefriw…since the 1960s'.
Yet 60 homes and businesses were flooded in the Trefriw and Llanrwst area last February, in the worst flooding witnessed there for 40 years. However, because fewer than 40 homes were affected, the flooding did not fall under the Environment Agency's definition of 'severe'.
Trefriw was not in the agency's floodwatch scheme. Members may be aware that insurers assess risk assessment by checking whether a property's postcode is in a floodplain.
The fact that the Environment Agency did not see fit to designate the village of Trefriw as 'high risk' is astonishing, when Legal and General designates this postcode area, LL27 0JJ, as a 'flood risk area'.
It is also important that Floodline, the telephone information service operated by the Environment Agency, takes into proper account the geographical location of the town of Machynlleth in relation to the counties of Gwynedd and Powys, especially as Dyfi bridge represents a key link between north and south Wales.
However, it failed to do this during the floods in February. A little local knowledge would have gone a long way to put it right in this instance, which is why these regional committees are important.
The Environment Agency states that it learns lessons from flooding incidents, and is not complacent. It is your Government's duty, Minister, to ensure that that is the case."