Welsh flood defences and their challenges

Porthcawl suffering stormy seas. Source: Jeremy Segrott

By Jess Warren

Following off the back of Storm Callum and the damage it caused across Wales, serious questions are being asked about the quality of Welsh flood defences and how to deal with the challenges posed by the Welsh terrain.

Stated in the 2010 Environment Agency report, Future Flooding in Wales; flood defences, Wales may need to treble current investment in order to simply maintain current levels of risk over the next 25 years. To be able to reduce risk even more, additional funding will be required from the Welsh Government.

As reported by WalesOnline, over 208,000 properties in Wales are currently at risk of either river or sea flooding, with a further 163,000 properties vulnerable to ‘surface water flooding’ due to drainage systems being unable to cope with large volumes of water in a flood.

Back in March, Environment Minister Hannah Blythyn announced a £56 million programme that will improve coastal erosion and flood defences expected to benefit 6,500 properties. This includes sites in Leckwith, Cardiff, llanmaes in the Vale of Glamorgan and Llyn Tegid Reservoir, Gwynedd.

Ms Blythyn also pledged more than £350 million will be provided to National Resources Wales and councils to reduce flood and coastal erosion risks “over this Government term”.

Eyeing-up the EU Solidarity Fund, Plaid Cymru declared that there needs to be “an urgent commitment to provide funding to assess the safety of public infrastructure…and to undertake any necessary repairs.

“Our farming community requires support for the loss of equipment and livestock, and scores of individuals need direct support to deal with the damage to their properties and possessions.”

The terrain in Wales is another contributing factor to the difficulty of flood management. Roger Falconer, Emeritus Professor at Cardiff University who founded the Hydro-environmental Research Centre, said that the “short steep catchments” in Wales make calculating the precision of flood defences much harder compared to flatter areas of the UK.

With Welsh farming at particular risk, there are calls for the Welsh Government to prepare more thoroughly for an increase in extreme weather.

Hedd Pugh of NFU Cymru said “some of our most productive and highest value agricultural land lies in floodplains or coastal regions, vulnerable to flooding, and deserves to be protected.”

With the Farmers’ Union of Wales arguing for better maintenance and operation of flood defences, they want to see farmland better protected from flood risk, as opposed to a policy of ‘managed retreat’ around the coastline.

Blythyn added that protecting against floods, and growing prevention strategies will remain amongst priorities, even amid “the backdrop of austerity”.

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