Flood Prevention Schemes

Environment and Rural Development – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 15 March 2007.

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. Elaine Smith (Coatbridge and Chryston) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive what action has been taken to progress flood prevention schemes throughout Scotland. (S2O-12387)

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

It is for local authorities to take the initiative in promoting flood prevention schemes. Schemes follow a statutory procedure under which they are made and advertised by the local authority and then submitted to Scottish ministers for confirmation.

For our part, we are committed to helping local authorities' efforts to increase protection for communities that are affected by flooding by investing in flood alleviation measures and flood defences. For the period 2006 to 2008, we made £75 million available to local authorities to support their flood prevention schemes, and we have increased the grant rate to 80 per cent of eligible costs.

The Executive has also published research findings on the implications of climate change for flood risk and we require local authorities to take those into account when they design flood prevention schemes.

Photo of Elaine Smith Elaine Smith Labour

I know that the minister is aware of the problem of flooding in the Whifflet area of my constituency as I raised it with the Executive some years ago and I discussed it with her recently. Can she give me further detail on the flood prevention work that is taking place in Whifflet and update me on the status of the work, which has been delayed? Can she reassure my constituents that they will soon be able to live and work free from the distress and upset that are caused by the flooding of their homes and businesses?

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

Yes. I am happy to do that. I met Elaine Smith to discuss the matter, which is a long-standing issue on which she has campaigned.

Some 34 properties are affected by the major investment programme. When the work is complete, they should be removed from the flood risk register. I understand that the project was delayed because Scottish Water discovered ground problems that made excavation difficult and it had to do extra work. However, it is still on track to complete the work by June. I will certainly encourage Scottish Water to keep Elaine Smith abreast of developments as the project progresses.

Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative

Given that detailed research is being done into future needs arising from the impact that global warming might have, has the minister's department estimated the additional capital funding that might be required and considered future budgets in the light of that? If so, do those estimates include the need for work on coastal protection as well as flood prevention, given that global warming will make the situation in coastal areas more severe?

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

In April 2005, a major United Kingdom research project—the foresight project—considered future flooding problems. That provides a challenging vision of flood and coastal management for the UK between 2030 and 2100 and it contributes significantly to our understanding of the longer-term challenges.

In the next parliamentary session, flood maps and increased investment will be in place. The key issue is working out our priorities, which means working out what communities it is possible to protect, particularly in coastal areas. In landward areas, the new planning guidance will deal with major planning issues, and managing the whole process will also raise issues.

We have done a lot of work and we are trying to be more joined up through the national flooding framework, but we have major challenges for the future. The Parliament will have to debate the subject in future years.

Photo of Mr Mark Ruskell Mr Mark Ruskell Green

The Flood Prevention (Scotland) Act 1961 locks us into building hard flood defences. What consideration is the Executive giving to funds that will allow us to put in place softer flood defence measures, which are effective? The minister will be aware of WWF's good work on the River Devon to reduce the flood risk to surrounding communities.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

The member makes the valuable point that many of the procedures and much of the legislation guiding how we act on flooding could be regarded as out of date. The Executive is working on that.

Earlier this year, I spoke to the flooding issues advisory committee about flooding. That committee now has a definition of, and principles and objectives for, sustainable flood management. It believes that that will help all stakeholders to become involved when we manage and plan schemes, so that we take a more strategic approach to managing flood risk as well as new types of flood defences. Work on that continues and I hope that we will consult on that in the summer. I urge members around the chamber to get involved in and add their constituents' experience to that consultation.

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour

I know that the deputy minister cannot be involved in a decision about the Water of Leith flood prevention scheme, because it affects her constituency, as well as mine. However, will she convey to the minister, Ross Finnie, the extreme frustration and anger of many of my constituents that, three years after that vital and necessary scheme received planning permission, no Executive decision has been taken about it? What progress has been made since I previously raised the matter at environment and rural development questions? When exactly will Ross Finnie say something about it?

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

As the member is correct to say, I agreed not to participate in the decision about that scheme, on which my views are well known, so I have not seen the paperwork. However, having consulted the minister, Ross Finnie, I am allowed to say that he will announce a decision very shortly.

I say to Malcolm Chisholm that every week that goes by reinforces to me the need to have a new and modern system in place, so that we can introduce such schemes faster and more effectively to protect the households that are affected by the devastation of flooding.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

On the management of flood risk, I wrote to the minister and raised at environment and rural development questions some weeks ago the possibility of allocating some unspent resources from the flood prevention budget to strategic studies of areas such as the River Tay catchment area, which produces several flood risk difficulties in my constituency. Has she considered undertaking some of that strategic work in concert with Perth and Kinross Council and other authorities, to identify ways of alleviating the flood risk by using information that is available today?

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

The member's suggestion is helpful. Our officials are considering how we can think more up front about better managing flood risk, rather than just putting in place physical schemes. That work continues.