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Independent review of floods announced to help Wales adapt to climate change

Cyhoeddi adolygiad annibynnol o lifogydd i helpu Cymru i addasu i newid hinsawdd

An independent review of flooding events across Wales during the winter of 2020-21 has been launched, the Welsh Government has announced.

Led by one of the UK’s leading barristers, the review will help ensure Wales learns from previous flooding events and embeds good practice for the future.

The review, which is part of the Co-operation Agreement between the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru, will consider evidence from investigations carried out by local authorities and Natural Resources Wales, as well as other relevant reports.

Since Storm Dennis wreaked havoc across the country in February 2020, Wales has experienced a rapid increase in the frequency of storm and flood events than at any other time in recorded history.

Heavy rainfall and storms are likely to become more frequent as a result of climate change.

The Minister for Climate Change has appointed Professor Elwen Evans QC, one of the UK’s leading barristers, to lead the review.

Professor Evans will be tasked with establishing key findings, shared concerns, lessons learned, successes and good practice, as well as identifying areas for improvement.

Minister for Climate Change, Julie James said:

“The terrible flooding we have witnessed in Wales in recent years is a stark reminder of the challenges we face from climate change. These increasingly frequent, powerful weather events create widespread trauma, disruption and financial loss for families and businesses.

“We have put a thorough flood strategy in place and recently announced the largest ever package of investment to reduce flood risk across Wales, with more than £214m over the next three years to help protect at least 45,000 homes from flood risk.

“It is vital we learn from previous events to prepare us for the future, and I am delighted Professor Evans, who brings substantial experience and authority, has agreed to lead the independent review.”

Designated Member, Sian Gwenllian said:

“We have seen the devastating impact flooding can have on our communities and businesses. Alongside taking action on climate change and ensuring Wales plays its part to tackle it, addressing flood prevention and learning from the devastating 2020-21 floods will make a difference to people’s safety and peace of mind across Wales.

“I have been working closely to develop the scope and approach to delivery of this important review as part of the Co-operation Agreement, and I look forward to the findings.”

The announcement of the independent review follows the record £214m investment in flood risk as part of the Co-operation Agreement between Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru, which will protect at least 45,000 homes.

This will support Flood Risk Management Authorities, accelerate the delivery of prevention schemes, and build resilience in the system as climate change intensifies.

Notes to editors

The independent review will:

  • Consider all the available evidence provided in local authority section 19 reports and Natural Resources Wales’ review of the flooding during 2020 and 2021, its impacts and how this might inform priorities for flood risk management in the future.
  • Focus on assessing and prioritising the recommendations made in the different reports and will identify recommendations for action by the relevant organisations.
  • Consider key findings, shared concerns, identify areas for improvement and good practice, successes and lessons learned.
  • Build on previous reviews, look at other relevant reports, Senedd Committee findings and national policy, such as Wales’ Flood Strategy, making best use of resources and maximising value for money.

Climate Change Committee: The path to a Net Zero Wales

In February 2020, Storm Dennis became one of Wales’ worst ever severe weather events on record, with Natural Resources Wales issuing more flood warnings than it had for a single storm before.

Professor Elwen Evans QC led the prosecution in the April Jones murder case; the defence team following the Gleision mine disaster and she led the independent review of the Mayhill riots last year.

The Minister for Climate Change and Designated Member have asked Professor Evans to consider the support required to undertake the review and the timescales for delivery. It has been agreed that Professor Evans must be given sufficient time to gather and assess the available evidence so her report can offer impartial, meaningful and robust conclusions.

In parallel, Wales’ independent Flood and Coastal Erosion Committee, chaired by Martin Buckle, is taking forward two separate reviews prescribed by the Flood Strategy.

The Co-Operation Agreement contains a commitment to commission an independent review of local government section 19 reports and Natural Resources Wales’ report into extreme flooding in winter 2020-21.