HC Deb 25 March 1996 vol 274 cc464-5W
Mr. David Porter

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how the Environment Agency will from 1 April prepare, operate and maintain a programme for sea defence and coast protection; what will be its policy by region on managed retreat and artificial defences; and if he will make a statement. [22254]

Mr. Boswell

From 1 April the Environment Agency will assume the operational powers of the National Rivers Authority on flood defence. The EA will exercise general supervision over all matters relating to flood defence in England and Wales. It will also undertake measures to reduce flooding from main rivers and the sea.

These functions will continue to be carried out through regional flood defence committees. Maritime local authorities will retain responsibility for coast protection against erosion.

The EA will operate within the Ministry's comprehensive policy framework for flood and coastal defence which inter alia encourages the provision of technically, environmentally and economically sound and sustainable defences. There is no presumption in favour of "managed retreat", or "managed setback" as it is better described. Setting back the line of defence is simply one of a range of options that regions of the EA can be expected to consider. All capital schemes, including artificial defences, should be based on an understanding of natural processes and, as far as possible, be compatible with those processes. The development of catchment plans and shoreline management plans will enable the EA to ensure that schemes are considered in a strategic context.

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