Minister sympathises with Fairbourne residents and promises open debate on coastal flooding

(Article dated 08/05/2014)

Plans to manage future sea levels rises will not be made “behind closed doors”, says flooding minister Alun Davies.

During a statement on coastal flooding at the Senedd on Tuesday (6 May), Labour Mid and West AM Joyce Watson asked the minister about the future of communities like Fairbourne on the Gwynedd coast.

Mrs Watson, a member of the Assembly’s Environment and Sustainability committee, said:

“A few weeks ago, I met up with Gwynedd Council officers and members to discuss progress on the Pwllheli climate change adaptation pilot project. That project, as you know, is one of three studies in Wales to assess how flood risk can be managed in the long term over the next 100 years.”

“I also recently visited Fairbourne – I met Peter Cole, chair of the Fairbourne Facing Change community group – to talk about Gwynedd Council’s draft shoreline management plan.

“When you gave evidence to the Environment and Sustainability Committee last month, you corrected media reports explaining that no decisions have, as yet, been taken. However, do you agree that the furore caused by the erroneous media reports underlines the importance of clear communication? Will you ensure that long-term flood planning continues to be led by open, honest and transparent public engagement?”

The Minister responded:

“When we talk about the issue of Fairbourne—and I sympathise greatly with the community of Fairbourne and the people who live there—I thought that it was grotesquely unfair the way they were treated by the BBC a few months ago, with regard to the way in which that whole subject was reported. I will be looking at the shoreline management plans over the next few months.

“These shoreline management plans are not academic documents, but documents that affect the lives of people in communities up and down Wales.

“We will not be taking any decisions lightly and we will not be taking any decisions behind closed doors. We will have an open debate about how we manage the coastline in Wales and how we do so into the future.”

Earlier this year, BBC Wales current affairs series Week In Week Out reported that Fairbourne was to start abandoning houses to the sea from 2025 – one of around 50 communities earmarked for “managed retreat” in the next 45 years, according to draft Shoreline Management Plans.

Fairbourne residents recently packed out three public meeting to discuss their concerns with representatives from Gwynedd Council.

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