Coastal flooding and erosion, and adaptation to climate change: Interim Report Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

Adaptation to sea-level rise and coastal change

1.It is clear that in the face of sea-level rise, the national approach to managing coastal flooding and erosion for many areas will need to increasingly move away from “holding the line” towards supporting people and communities to adapt to change and mitigate the harms. This will not be easy. The costs, both economic and social, to some coastal communities and the people living and working there will be substantial and should not be forgotten in the national debate. In their response, the Government and Environment Agency should explain:

Funding and sharing the balance of costs

2.We recognise that in recent years the Government has reversed previous cuts to core Flood Defence Grant in Aid, so that it is now seen as broadly sufficient, if not always correctly targeted. (Paragraph 42)

3.The Environment Agency and National Infrastructure Commission should explain what levels of long-term funding they consider will be required given projected sea-level rise, and the priorities for that funding. (Paragraph 43)

4.The Government should explain how the repeated cycle of cuts to funding to below sustainable levels, which are then reversed only after major flood events, will be ended and prevented from re-occurring. It should also explain how it intends to fund adaptation to coastal changes and sea-level rise. (Paragraph 44)

5.Local communities that may be affected by changes to the management approach to their local coastline should know when and how those decisions will be taken. The evidence suggests, in part owing to a lack of funding, that the current Shoreline Management Plan process can be opaque and the timetables for the decisions unclear. The Environment Agency should provide a timetable for the revision of individual Shoreline Management Plans, to enable communities and landowners to plan for the future. (Paragraph 45)

6.The Government should demonstrate its seriousness about attracting private sector funding and how it will reverse the apparent stalling of private sector contributions under the Partnership Funding model, and how it intends to strengthen the system including the use of tax incentives for private investment. It is clear that the implementation, affordability, and funding of Shoreline Management Plans in the face of the challenges posed by climate change needs further scrutiny. This includes the availability of funding to support adaptation and other measures that are not traditional “hold the line” sea defences. How the burden of the costs of sea-level rise is spread across the country, and between the public and private sectors also needs further consideration. Insurance, or related products, may play a significant role in that. However, the question of how it would encourage adaptation and resilience rather than just paying for the status quo to be replaced, or even encourage inappropriate development, needs to be further explored. (Paragraph 46)

Land use planning policy

7.The Environment Agency should explain what actions it is currently taking to ensure it is effective in its role as a statutory consultee for proposed Coastal Change Management Areas, or if its role needs to be strengthened or other policy changes made, to ensure the system can prevent inappropriate development in areas at risk of coastal flooding or erosion. (Paragraph 48)

8.Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government Ministers should respond to concerns that their housebuilding targets may be leading to councils allowing inappropriate development in areas at risk from flooding or erosion; and to what extent the planning system as a whole is currently prioritising managing the risks from coastal flooding and erosion or needs strengthening. (Paragraph 49)

Published: 1 November 2019