Peter Aldous calls for a national long-term, strategic, collaborative approach to coastal erosion so that we can move away from the current fragmented crisis management approach.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir David, and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Angus (Kirstene Hair) on securing the debate. I welcome the Minister to his place, though I highlight the sterling work done by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey), on the protection of the coast, both locally and nationally. I wish her well, and hope to see her back in her place very shortly.
It is vital that we have an effective coastal and flood erosion policy in place, as the challenge that we face is going to increase over the coming years as sea levels rise. The management of the coast takes place within a legislative framework that was set down in 1949. Although it has been adapted, that framework has drawbacks. Local authorities are fragmented and coastal defence is only one of a multitude of demands that they face. At a national level, there is a need for a more cross-Government approach. The Environment Agency’s focus is very much on the short term, but we need to look at the longer-term needs of coastal communities as well.
There is good news. Many innovative schemes are taking place around the coast. In East Anglia, in recognition of the impact of coastal change, all six coastal planning authorities in Suffolk and Norfolk are drafting a statement of common ground, and are taking a common approach to managing the coast in revising their local plans. Three schemes are taking place in my constituency. The Lowestoft flood risk management project is at its detailed planning stage and will be completed in 2020-21 at Corton and Kessingland.
To promote more cost-effective long-term strategic coastal management the Government need to address three specific issues. First, there needs to be better reporting on schemes from around the country, so we can learn from those projects. Secondly, we need to promote long-term adaptation of vulnerable coastlines, and make the planning system simpler to do that. Thirdly, as we have heard, the Bellwin scheme needs to be looked at more fully. If we do that, we can move away from a crisis management approach to more of a long-term, strategic, collaborative approach.
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