HC Deb 23 April 1990 vol 171 cc77-8W
Mr. David Porter

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what studies he has asked the National Rivers Authority to undertake into protecting land and dwellings from sea erosion, particularly in Suffolk and Norfolk; and if he will make public such reports.

Mr. Maclean

My officials have encouraged the National Rivers Authority (NRA)—and previously the former regional water authorities to undertake studies of the coastline generally.

In particular, we have provided grant aid towards a major study of the coastline between the Humber and the Thames which was originally commissioned by the former Anglian water authority and is now being carried out on behalf of the NRA.

The initial phases of the study are complete and the resulting sea defence management atlas has been made available to interested parties. The remaining phase of the study is designed to lead to a better understanding of coastal processes and should be complete by summer 1991. The data are expected to be used to support the subsequent development of coastal management strategies and again will be made available to interested parties.

Mr. David Porter

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on his criteria for evaluating agricultural land, land of special scientific or heritage interests and dwellings in terms of sea defence schemes; and if he has plans to review the criteria.

Mr. Maclean

It is one of the conditions of grant that a proposed sea defence scheme must be economically worth while. The basic criterion is that its discounted benefits should at least equal its discounted cost.

Valuation of agricultural land depends on the extent of flood damage expected in the absence of a scheme. In general, land subject to slight flooding, leading to a lower value land use, would be valued by assessing the consequent drop in gross margin, more severe flooding causing irreversible loss, would usually be valued at the "risk-free" market price of the land.

A number of approaches are used to value land of special scientific or heritage interest. This may involve finding the price a conservation body is willing to pay for the land, or encouraging visitors to place a monetary value on their enjoyment of the site. (It is also a condition of grant that schemes must be environmentally sympathetic).

As with agriculture, the approach to property valuation depends on the frequency and severity of flooding likely to occur in the absence of a scheme. Minor losses are treated as recurrent losses and evaluated using well established techniques; for more severe damage the "risk-free" open market value of the property is used.

Mr. David Porter

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement about the future of the coastline of Suffolk and Norfolk, in terms of sea defences and natural erosion, and his Department's plans until the end of the century.

Mr. Maclean

We fully recognise the need for improvements to coastal defences constructed in East Anglia following the floods in 1953 and now reaching the end of their useful life. Several major grant-aided schemes are already under way or in the course of preparation. Government grant allocated to the Anglian region has increased by 28 per cent. this year and represents over half of the total provision to the NRA.

We review national long-term flood defence needs annually and the National Rivers Authority Anglian region's 10-year needs programme, which will take account of improvements in understanding of coastal processes, plays an important role in the considerations.

The criteria are kept under continual review. We encourage and actively support research aimed at the improvement of evaluation techniques and Middlesex polytechnic is currently developing, with Ministry funding, a manual for the assessment of the benefits of coast protection and sea defence which will represent a considerable advance in this field.

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