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Viability of Welsh coastal defences questioned

People living in high flood risk coastal communities in Wales may have to leave as a report says the nation’s flood defences cannot keep up with environmental change.

The study, for the Wales Audit Office led by auditor general for Wales Jeremy Colman, estimated that flood risk will increase 20-fold by the next century, and the cost of flood damage could rise from £70 million to £1.4 billion.

The report recommends that the Assembly Government needs to develop a strategy to relocate existing
assets and people away from parts of the coast where the risk or cost of protecting against coastal erosion or tidal flooding is unacceptably high and consider how it can overcome financial and other barriers that may prevent the success of this strategy.

Currently, around 60% of people in Wales live in coastal areas. Those considered at high risk of flood damage include Kimmel Bay, Towyn to Llandudno in North Wales; Aberaeron, Aberystwyth, Tywyn and Borth in the west; and the Gwent Levels in the south.

Climate change will result in more severe storms, according to the Coastal Erosion and Tidal Flooding Risks in Wales report, and sea levels are predicted to rise by around one metre over the next 100 years.

Colman said: “Current flood defences can’t keep pace with environmental change so we need to drastically rethink our approach to safeguarding the coastline by adopting a more risk-based approach.”

Colman added that the current approach of building sea defences was expensive and unsustainable.

Examination needed to be made, he said, of where sea defences were needed and where they were simply not worthwhile.

There are currently 415 kilometres of man-made defences along parts of the Welsh coast, worth £750 million, protecting around £8 billion of assets.

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