A WELSH Government Minister says that Cardiff Bay’s efforts to regenerate town centres will take account of climate change’s impact on their future sustainability.
Deputy Minister for Climate Change Lee Waters told BBC Radio Wales’s Sunday Supplement that difficult decisions had to be made about regenerating coastal towns.
Most of Wales’s principal towns and cities are based around the coast or on river basins, and flood maps forecast that many face increased tidal and river flooding over the coming decades.
Mr Waters said: “We want to regenerate town centres. Quite a lot of our town centres are on floodplains.
“Now do we allow development on there – on the one hand dealing with the ‘crying issue’ in front of us of declining town centres, but then think, well, that’s the wrong thing to do.”
The pattern of climate change that will lead to increased flooding events is already set, and plans to tackle it seek only to prevent further and avoidable hazards and loss.
Mr Waters said there was a temptation to say, ‘Well, that’s the government’s problem. What’s the government’s going to do about that?’
However, he continued: “I don’t think that quite works for climate change.
“We all have a responsibility. These are collective decisions we all make – from builders and planners and managers to decision makers in public authority.”
The issues interlock.
The Welsh Government has neither enough existing funding nor access to other funding sources to do everything it wants to preserve along Wales’s coasts.
Moreover, the cost of preserving all communities is prohibitive and attempting to do so would pour good money after bad on a colossal scale.
Active measures to preserve all affected communities are too expensive and represent too poor an economic return.
Earlier this year, the Welsh Government and Natural Resources Wales produced a revised flood risk map that makes grim reading for many coastal communities in West Wales, particularly Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire.
The new planning policy advice- Technical Advice Note 15 or TAN 15, for short -was released on September 27.
New developments cannot take place in areas at high risk of flooding or coastal erosion.And there is an absolute bar on building key public buildings (for example, schools and medical facilities) in highly vulnerable areas.
Parts of Newport. Cardiff and Swansea are threatened.
Major developments in both Llanelli and Burry Port scheduled for former industrial sites will be in areas at risk of both fluvial and tidal flooding (apart from the risks posed by metals and particulate pollution).
In the meantime, the A487 in Pembrokeshire is already scheduled for relocation due to repeated flooding. Amroth faces being left to the vagaries of extreme weather, and the coast around Saundersfoot will be realigned to dramatic effect. Around the coast, Broad Haven and Little Haven face uncertain futures.
Coastal defences in Ceredigion face being overwhelmed by extreme weather events and, further north, the town of Fairbourne is likely to prove unsustainable.
We asked the Welsh Government what assessment it made of the economic impact of communities’ displacement and lost opportunities due to the combination of rising sea levels and the increasing frequency of extreme weather.
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We will continue to support communities at risk of extreme flood events while closely monitoring the evolving evidence of flood risks with local authorities, delivery partners and, most importantly, the people who live and work in these areas.
“There is a great deal of uncertainty in estimating the future costs associated with the impact of climate change, which is why we are prioritising localising jobs for immediate benefits and investing in new economic opportunities associated with delivering net zero.
“Examples of this include incentivising businesses to transition towards a circular economy, where waste is used as a resource, and helping to create jobs in sectors such as clean energy.”
However, for many communities, including iconic areas of Pembrokeshire, such as Lower Town Fishguard and Dale, that activity might be too late to affect their fates.