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“Appraisal of Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management”

Volume 494: debated on Monday 22 June 2009

I would like to inform the House that the Defra policy statement: “Appraisal of Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management” was published on Friday. Copies will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

This policy statement sets out guiding principles for the appraisal of plans and projects to manage flood and coastal erosion in England. It promotes a strategic, risk-based approach to assessing the costs and benefits of investment. The policy applies to operating authorities in England (the Environment Agency, local authorities and internal drainage boards) when considering investing public money in flood and coastal erosion risk management. The Environment Agency will publish more detailed best practice guidance in support.

The intended benefits of the new policy statement include:

A greater focus on early involvement with the community and social factors; including better assessment of impacts on health, community well-being and social justice. It seeks to support the development of options that attract other sources of funding, to leverage Government investment and increase local and regional benefit.

A more thorough appraisal of a wider range of possible approaches including adaptation where it is not feasible to reduce the probability of flooding and coastal erosion from occurring.

A transparent framework for decision making to ensure that public investment represents good value for money.

A greater emphasis on flexibility in future, such as being able to adapt solutions over time as the climate changes. This supports Defra's coastal change policy which is currently being consulted on.

The statement follows on from the public consultation held in summer 2008. The draft statement received broad support and the final document published takes account of the main issues raised during the consultation. To build on this, I will review ahead of the next spending review what we want to achieve from Government investment, including whether there is a case for establishing outcome measures for agricultural land and commercial property, to broaden the existing focus beyond households, deprived areas, the economy, and the environment if the benefits justify the additional costs. I will also review the local government national indicator 189, to ensure that it encourages a partnership in tackling flood and coastal erosion through local and multi-area agreements.

The Environment Agency has also published “Investing for the future: a long term investment strategy” (a key recommendation of Sir Michael Pitt’s review and from the EFRA Select Committee), a new external contributions policy, and “Flooding in England”, a national assessment of flood risks as they currently stand.

Sir Michael Pitt concluded that long-term approaches to flood and coastal erosion risk management should not assume all costs should be met centrally, and recommended that local areas be encouraged to invest more in their own protection given the private as well as public benefits involved. I hope these publications, taken together with the new UK climate projections, will inform a public debate on what long-term goals society should seek in managing the risk of flooding and coastal erosion given climate change, and how investment needs should be met. This will enable us to face up to the choices ahead, to take appropriate decisions based on the best evidence available, and to deliver sustainable flood and coastal risk management now and into the future.