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Agency implored to include local needs in coastal plans

Engineers urged the Environment Agency last week to avoid ignoring local needs in favour of national objectives when prioritising coastal management schemes.
From this year the Agency will take control over all coastal management investment, under plans described in the Making Space for Water strategy.The extent of its new powers and responsibilities will be outlined by environment minister Ian Pearson in an overview statement expected imminently, but it will include taking control of coastal erosion management funding from the Department for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra).'The Agency will have to balance national versus local policy,' said Sefton Borough Council project leader for coastal defence Graham Lymbery, speaking at the NCE coastal development and risk management conference in London last week. 'There has to be consensus building from the bottom up, not from the top down.'Other engineers at the conference expressed fears that schemes would be imposed on local authorities by the Agency, rather than allowing areas to build up their own coastal management plans. Under a system being consulted on by Defra, the Agency will use a new set of outcome measures to evaluate the need for investment.Schemes will then be funded depending on how they meet national objectives for achieving the outcome measures. Agency Making Space for Water policy manager Alison Baptiste said: 'In one area we may opt for a scheme that protects a significant number of properties, but in another we may chose a scheme that meets environmental targets.'Baptiste admitted that ensuring everyone is happy with the investment plans will be a challenge. 'It is going to be tricky to meet all the expectations of local communities, but our aim is to make sure the whole thing is transparent and people will be able to see and understand why [some projects are not funded],' she said.

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