Flood protection for Welsh homes 'unaffordable', new report warns

Flooding will become more frequent in the years ahead, with waters going higher. Credit: PA Images

It could become unaffordable to defend thousands of homes across Wales from flooding over the next century, according to Natural Resources Wales (NRW).

More than 22,000 properties sit behind flood defences which a new report says "does not make economic sense to invest in".

The impact of climate change is expected to be more severe over the next 100 years. NRW says flood defences will need to be higher, and often stronger, to deal with the strain.

However, it has admitted it is not "feasible or cost-effective in all locations" to increase or invest in flood defences.

Flooding is already an issue for some communities but it is more are likely to face the same challenges over the next century. Credit: PA Images

Just 13 per cent of currently defended areas were shown to be 'economically viable' to invest in, in the years ahead.

However, 70% of 'at-risk' properties across Wales are located within these areas, according to the report.

Storm Dennis in February 2020 - one of the most significant weather events to hit Wales for a generation - saw 2,200 homes and more than 550 non-residential properties flooded.

Although the report said there will not be a significant impact over the next 20 to 25 years, it warns decisions cannot be put off for the next quarter of a century, with "large scale construction schemes and adaptation strategies" taking "years of planning."

It said "securing long-term budgets" to deal with greater flooding will also take years.

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The cost of protecting key areas from the effects of climate change as water rises would cost 3.4 times current funding levels, according to NRW.

If funding remains at current levels, 18,000 properties remain at 'high risk', with subsequent damages increasing by £800 million over the next century.

The report said the number of properties in Wales at risk of river flooding could rise by a quarter, with the number at risk of tidal flooding potentially increasing by almost 50% compared to the current level.

This latest report does not name locations at the highest risk. However, a separate report by NRW published in November gives specific areas.

That report gave a breakdown of communities facing the largest increase in threat from both river and tidal flooding.

Several areas of Cardiff are at risk of flooding without updated defences, according to the report. Credit: PA Images

The previous report by NRW said areas facing at greatest risk from river flooding are Canton, Grangetown, Kinmel Bay, Leckwith, Llanelli, Port Talbot, Riverside, Towyn, Tirphil near New Tredegar in Caerphilly and Troedyrhiw.

The same report projected by 2120 the communities facing the biggest threat of flooding from the sea will be Butetown, Canton, Grangetown, Llandudno, Llanelli, Maindee, Newport, Prestatyn, Rhyl and Riverside in Cardiff.

Chief executive of NRW Clare Pillman said: "There is no denying that the biggest challenge of our era is the climate emergency. We have certainly been dealing with the very real impacts of that recently, with multiple named storms hitting Welsh shores over recent weeks and months."

Ms Pillman added the report "aims to help understand the investment required in flood defences" over the next century, and said it will "trigger difficult conversations."

She said: "It is crucial that we have those conversations now."

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A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We welcome the publication of NRW’s report, which once again highlights the impact of the climate emergency.

“There are difficult challenges ahead and we are working closely with communities to establish how they can remain safe in the short-term while planning to adapt for the future.

“No community has been written off and we continue to fund, strengthen, and maintain our flood defence infrastructure in Wales to keep communities safe.”