Municipal engineers this week hit out at government plans to give the Environment Agency the final say over councils' long-term plans for coastal defence.
Under a recently closed Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) consultation into flood and coastal erosion risk management, the Agency would take the lead role in new shoreline management plans.'It would be a backward step because we don't believe the Agency has the capacity,' said John Riby, head of engineering and harbour services at Scarborough Borough Council and lead officer for the Local Government Association on coastal erosion. 'We also have grave concerns that the Agency would not be answerable to elected members and doesn't have local knowledge.Hampshire County Council's head of environment strategy Brian Boult said that the proposal goes against the spirit of the newly published Local Government White Paper. 'The White Paper talks about community leadership, but if the Agency is going to take responsibility for this how does that fit in with the wider role the government wants local authorities to have? These issues have to be taken in a wider context, but it will be putting coastal defence into a narrow technical silo.'Defra responded: 'Local authority performance in managing risk has been variable and we think there will be benefits of the Agency working more in partnership with local authorities. It doesn't mean the Agency will be delivering everything. We will be considering responses very carefully.'