Friday, 12 February 2016

Welsh Lib Dems respond to Flooding Challenge

No one can easily forget the flooding experienced across the UK this winter and whilst Wales has fared better than most there have been some problems. However the height of the flooding coincided with the motions deadline for Welsh Spring Conference and armed with personal knowledge and a Facebook policy group I set out to write what I hope is a reasonably comprehensive start point for our party to move forward.

The motion in full can be found within the conference guide but in keeping with all good things political it comes with a 10 point call for action.
Conference calls for:
1. The Welsh Government to replace existing planning guidance with respect to development in the flood plain with a new robust strategy. 
2. All future risk modelling be based on a "known record level extent model" for flood management. 
3. The Welsh Government to introduce new Planning Design Notes and Building Regulations to improve the resilience of properties identified as being at risk of flooding and reduce the impact of surface water run off.  
4. The Welsh Government to develop whole-catchment plans for Welsh rivers designed to reduce the flow rates of water through the catchment.
5. The Government in both Cardiff and Westminster to make grants available to householders in flood risk areas who want to put in place improvements to their properties that improve the resilience of the property to future flood events.  
6. The Government in Westminster to work with the insurance industry to produce new renovation guidelines designed to increase the resilience of properties in the face of repeated flood events.  
7. Local Authorities to immediately remove all housing allocations on areas identified to be at risk of flooding from their development plans except where planning permission has already been granted and work commenced.  
8. The Government in Westminster to introduce a presumption against siting well heads for fracking in areas identified as falling within a flood risk zone.  
9. The Welsh Liberal Democrats to actively participate in any review of flood management including making a submission for policy changes based on this debate.  
10. The introduction of lowland farm management plans which promote the development of water meadows and the use of lower grade agricultural land for flood control measures.

These measures in themselves will not provide the solution. Our weather patterns have altered considerably in the past 20 years what once fell as snow in autumn is now heavy rain. Water is not trapped in frozen ground as upland bogs remain just that. Moreover one persons flood defences have become someone else’s flood.

This motion has set out a new approach, we need to consider the whole catchment in our plans and far from speeding up flows we must seek to slow them down keeping water in the hills for as long as possible. If we are to use farmland for deliberate short term water storage it must be limited to under a week beyond that even pasture will begin to suffer and some of our most productive farmland will be lost.

However most significant of all is our approach to the planning and reconstruction process. We have already built where we shouldn't have so renovation must also include resilience and the insurance industry should plan that into any settlements made. We shouldn’t make matters worse either, the 20 or 100 year return event is no longer a sustainable model for prediction instead we should move to a known historic event model for planning. We should also review all current allocations and if they are in areas where there is an historic record of flooding developers must show how that is to be managed or have the allocation removed.

Finally we must protect our environment at all costs. When a street floods the police will tell you not to go into the water because of contamination risks. So this motion takes that forward and states clearly that Welsh Lib Dems would introduce a presumption against the development of any well relating to fracking within a known flood extent or where there is evidence of localised surface water flooding.

Elements of this motion will feed into discussions we will have post May if we are in a position to form a government in Wales.

Any local party wanting to adopt them or bring the motion to their own regional conference is more than welcome to use the full text.

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