I was pleased by the extensive coverage in the 7 June issue of NCE of coastal flood and erosion risk and the challenges faced in managing this, especially given the likely impacts of climate change. Effective application of engineering skills is key to meeting this challenge and I am glad of the chance to explain more fully what the Government is doing.
Our cross-government Making space for water programme represents a thorough review of policy and an attempt to engage minds across the country. We are aiming to develop the broad range of options for managing risk - integrated urban drainage, funding development of innovative solutions, strategic overview of all coastal fl ood and erosion risk by the Environment Agency, encouragement of individual property fl od resilience and resistance and improved emergency planning, to mention a few of the major strands.
In developing coastal erosion risk maps, the Environment Agency, with the support of Defra and the Welsh Assembly Government, is aiming to do for coastal erosion what has already been accomplished for fl ood risk - to defi e publicly, and as clearly and accurately as practicable, the areas at risk from coastal erosion in England and Wales. The proposed maps were welcomed by the House of Commons Communities & Local Government Committee's recent Report on Coastal Towns.
We are mindful that, as with the flood maps, publication of the maps themselves may impact on people living in areas identifi ed as at risk. Their basis and purpose will have to be explained carefully but, together with review of the entire set of Shoreline Management Plans around the coast by 2010, they will help ensure public awareness of the risk and the policies proposed by the authorities responsible to manage it. Most importantly, development of these policies will include full consultation with those likely to be affected.
Development of approaches to help individuals and communities adapt to a changing coastline will rely on constructive help from local government. We are looking at the potential for wider use of local authority well-being and planning powers and working with councils in areas likely to be most affected by coastal erosion losses to define the extent of the problem.
There is certainly no expectation that there should be largescale 'abandonment of communities and huge swathes of land'.
That is not to downplay the seriousness of the issue for those affected and I welcome further debate on social justice issues and how the available public funding should be used to best effect. There will always be difficult choices.
Finally I should stress that, alongside all our work on policy development, a large part of the £600 million being spent this year is funding a programme of works on the coast to maintain existing defences and build new ones to reduce the probability of flooding and erosion and to ensure adequate provision of flood warning systems. This is making a real difference to communities around the coast in Blackpool, Morecambe, Newbiggin, Weston super Mare and many others.
Ian Pearson MP is Minister of State (Climate Change and the Environment) for DEFRA.