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Flood risk management and coastal protection

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Flood risk management

The law in relation to flood risk management is generally to be found in the Flood and Water Management Act 2010, the powers in which are largely devolved to the Welsh Ministers. The 2010 Act provides for a national flood and coastal erosion risk management strategy in relation to Wales, and for local flood risk management strategies.  

The Environment (Wales) Act 2016 amended the 2010 Act as to replace regional flood and coastal committees with a new body: the Flood and Coastal Erosion Committee. The Committee advises the Welsh Ministers on all flood and coastal erosion risk management matters in Wales, including raising awareness, preparation and community resilience to flooding.

Shoreline Management Plans

The aim of a shoreline management plan is to provide the basis for sustainable coastal defence policies within a coastal cell and to set objectives for the future management of the shoreline.

The Welsh Government required local authorities, Natural Resources Wales and other bodies involved in managing the coast to work together to produce Shoreline Management Plans (SMPs) for the whole of the Welsh coastline.

The basic things to know about Shoreline Management Plans are:

  • SMPs are non-statutory, high level policy documents for coastal flood and erosion risk management planning.
  • SMPs provide a large-scale assessment of the risks associated with coastal erosion and flooding at the coast and propose policies to help manage these risks.
  • Proposed SMPs management policies are designed to achieve long-term sustainability (over the next 100 years), not committing to environmentally, technically and/or economically unviable defence of the coast.
  • SMPs recognise, however, that long-term and short-term needs might be different. Therefore, SMPs provide a timeline for objectives, policy and management changes; i.e. a ‘route map’ for decision makers to move from the present situation towards the future.
  • Management policies for each coastal stretch are proposed considering a variety of factors such as location of coastal communities, existing defences, power stations and public utilities, transport links, ports and harbours, industrial facilities, tourist and amenity areas, conservation and heritage sites and the wider natural environment. It also takes account of other existing planning initiatives and legislative requirements.
  • The different policies proposed within the SMPs for managing the shoreline are:
    • Hold the line (HTL): this means that existing defences are maintained, replaced, or upgraded along their current alignment.
    • Advance the line (ATL): this means that new defences are built seaward of the original defences.
    • Managed realignment (MR): letting the shoreline move backwards in a controlled way.
    • No active intervention (NAI): this means the shoreline will continue to evolve naturally once defences (if present) fail.
  • The first generation of SMPs were completed in the early 2000’s. A second generation has been recently finalised (known as SMP2s), after an exhaustive review of latest available information, including climate change guidance, changes in environmental legislation and an improved understanding of how the coast behaves. A further review of the SMP2 is likely to be carried out in 5 to 10 years.

The Flood Risk Regulations 2009 implement the requirements of the European Floods Directive (2007/60/EC). The Directive aims to provide a consistent approach to managing flood risk using a six year cycle of assessing, mapping and developing plans to manage flood risk. Once such plans are completed across the whole of Wales there will be a comprehensive framework for the management of all sources of flooding.

Coastal protection

The law in relation to coastal protection is generally to be found in the Coast Protection Act 1949, functions under which are generally transferred to the Welsh Ministers.

Published on
Last updated
24 June 2021