Coastal and river defences, The Spectator

This letter was sent to The Spectator in response to an article about cuts to coastal and river defences.

We agree with your apposite article on coastal and river defences (Waving while drowning, 26 September), which rightly suggests that government has raised the white flag in the face of natural adversity.
Unfortunately, it would seem there are insufficient public funds available for the Environment Agency (EA), or indeed any other public authority, to continue to provide the current level of support for coastal flood defences.
The problem is made worse by a number of specific factors. Firstly, the cost/benefit analysis used by EA when deciding whether maintenance should continue does not sufficiently take into account the value of agricultural land and food production. Secondly, the analysis looks at a 100-year time period, failing to consider technological improvements of the future.
Finally, EA refuses to adopt a “stitch in time saves nine” approach. Rather than doing running repairs, it waits until deterioration is serious and the works cost far more than they would previously have done, often making a project unviable. This rather defeatist approach is reflected in the Government’s strategy for flood and coastal erosion risk management, which is appropriately named: “Making space for water”.
Landowners are increasingly opting to do the work themselves at their own expense. This has the potential to bring considerable public benefits. However, the current administrative and legal framework under which a landowner obtains the various planning consents needed is complex and cumbersome. The Government should at least remove these bureaucratic obstacles to providing flood defences.

William Worsley President
Country Land & Business Association (CLA)