Floods are one of the most common environmental emergencies; with widespread and long-lasting health, environmental and financial impacts affecting homes and businesses and can significantly disrupt the normal functioning of whole communities.
The latest government reports (both UK and Wales) have identified flooding and coastal change risks to homes, communities, businesses and infrastructure as being one of the top areas of climate change risks. It is now generally accepted that future river and surface water flooding and coastal inundation from climate change impacts are a major high-level risk and that despite progress with flood defences, it is unlikely that we will ever be able to fully manage and mitigate against all events.
Over 34,000 properties in the Conwy and Denbighshire PSB area are currently at some level of flood risk; this number is almost certain to increase as climate change accelerates.
Flood risk management is driven strategically by Welsh Government’s National flood and coastal erosion risk management strategy in Wales. The principal aim is to reduce the risk to people and communities from flooding and coastal erosion, using five strategic objectives:
Improve our understanding and communication of risk
Preparedness and building resilience
Prioritising investment to most at risk communities
Preventing more people becoming exposed to risk
Providing an effective and sustained response to events
Flood Risk Management responsibilities
Flood Risk Management in Wales involves a number of organisations, termed Risk Management Authorities (RMAs).
Natural Resources Wales (NRW) is responsible for managing flood risk from main rivers and the sea. It also has a strategic oversight and general supervision role in terms of having a Wales-wide understanding of all sources of flooding and as part of this role are responsible for providing advice and information to the other RMAs through their forecasting, warning and mapping activities.
Conwy and Denbighshire Local Authorities as Lead Local Flood Authorities (LLFA) are responsible for managing flood risk from surface water, groundwater and from smaller streams called ordinary watercourses. They also manage drainage of local highways under the Highways Act. They have powers under the Coast Protection Act to carry out work to manage coastal flood and erosion risk.
Water companies operating in Wales have operational responsibility for drainage via public sewers (foul, surface-water and/or combined).
The Welsh Government, as the highway authority for trunk roads, has a responsibility for trunk road drainage under the Highways Act.
Impacts of flooding
Flooding and coastal erosion can have a variety of consequences and impacts, not only on well-being but wider economic, environmental and social factors. The 2020 floods were a stark reminder of the devastating consequences of intense rainfall events. However, even modest flooding events can significantly impact homes, businesses, key infrastructure and whole communities.
All types of flooding carry a risk to life. Short term physical health impacts are usually due to injuries, infections, exposure to chemical and sewage hazards and the disruption to the delivery of health and social care services along with other key services such as water and energy. A study by Public Health England recorded a significant association between the experience of flood damage and symptoms of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress. Displacement during repairs is likely to increases the impact on mental well-being and it was also shown that those not flooded but disrupted through such as lack of access to work, schooling and services, particularly health and social care, were also likely to experience poor mental health conditions. These effects can continue for many years after the actual flooding.
From a health perspective, quite often the worst affected are the more vulnerable in society. A 2017 report for Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that socially vulnerable neighbourhoods are over-represented in areas prone to flooding, but most significantly in areas prone to coastal and tidal flooding. Certain parts of society are less able to cope with the effects of flooding and impacts are often distributed unequally with the greatest burdens generally falling on the most vulnerable and disproportionately borne by marginalised households.
Flooding of infrastructure, primarily road and rail networks, can be costly both in terms of repairs and the disruption to businesses; employees may not be able to access the workplace along with delayed movement of goods. Disrupted transport routes also affects people’s access to education, shops and health services; rural communities can be particularly vulnerable where there is often a large dependency on access.
Current flood risk in Conwy and Denbighshire
Properties at risk – In Conwy there are a total number 19,607 properties at risk of flooding from rivers, tidal and surface water sources, where properties include residential and non-residential. Highest number of properties being associated with tidal flooding 9,822 and 5,458 at river flood risk and 4,387 at risk from surface water flooding.
Denbighshire is shown to have 8,320 properties at tidal risk, 3,097 properties at risk from rivers and 3,776 properties at risk from surface water flooding, which totals 15,193 properties at risk within Local Authority boundary and present day defended risk.
These properties at risk figures are based on FRAW (Flood Risk Assessment Wales) , which is national modelling dataset and does not take account of local detailed modelling studies/evidence or the impact of climate change.
Communities at risk register – NRW has developed the Communities at Risk Register (CaRR) to identify the locations of greatest risk of flooding from all sources (Table 1). These combined rankings include all three tidal/fluvial and surface water sources of flooding without presence of defences.
Table 1 Combined Communities at Risk Register (CaRR) rankings for Conwy and Denbighshire. These combined rankings include all three tidal/fluvial and surface water sources of flooding without presence of defences. Bold type is significant flood risk areas as identified by Preliminary Flood Risk Areas 2018
Coastal/tidal flood risk –There are significant flood risk areas along the North Wales Coastline in both Conwy (Kinmel Bay, Towyn and Abergele) and Denbighshire (Rhyl and Prestatyn) as identified by the Preliminary Flood Risk Assessment 2018.
Climate change impacts such as sea level rise and more frequent and serious storms within the coastal zone will exacerbate the exposure of the coast to flooding and coastal erosion; and will increase the risk to the coastal assets and the costs to maintain them to acceptable standards.
Shoreline Management Plan 2 (SMPs) – SMPs look at how the coast is managed from a flood and coastal erosion risk management perspective in the face of climate change and other pressures to determine sustainable coastal management policies. They set out where defence of the coastline should continue and where it would be more sustainable to adapt over time. The coastline is split into sections known as ‘policy units’ that will be assigned 1 of 3 management policies for each of 3 time periods or epochs.
Conwy and Denbighshire have a number of areas where coastal adaptation is identified/required by policy change areas in the Shoreline Management Plans and Action Plans which are managed by the Coastal Forums. In Epoch 1 (2005 – 2025) all units in Conwy and Denbighshire are managed under policy Hold the line (HTL) by maintaining or changing the existing standard of protection.
There are planned policy unit changes from 2025 (Epoch 2 2025 – 2055) for the following units, all of will move from Hold the Line to Managed Realignment (MR) which allows the shoreline to move backwards and forwards, with management to control or limit the movement.
Conwy – Tal Y Cafn; Tal-y-Cafn to Llanrwst
Conwy and Denbighshire – Forydd Railway Bridge to Rhuddlan Road Bridge Clwyd Estuary west (left) bank
Denbighshire – Rhuddlan Road Bridge to Forydd Railway Bridge Clwyd estuary East (right) bank
Community flood plans
Through local community engagement campaigns, communities at risk of flooding have been encouraged to produce their own Community Flood Plans. The plans are voluntary, community lead and supported by NRW. Plans exist for communities in Trefriw, Betws y Coed, Llanddulas, Splash Point Rhyl, Talacre, Ruthin and St.Asaph.
Flood risk management activities in Conwy and Denbighshire
NRW conducts routine maintenance activities of the assets that it manages; these typically take place annually. There is also a programme for replacement and improvement such as outfall and embankment repairs and flood gate replacement; these and larger works (that may span several years) are part of a rolling programme reliant on capital funding.
There are a number of communities in Conwy and Denbighshire which benefit from existing flood defences and investment from Welsh Government capital funding.
In Llanwrst and the Afon Conwy, NRW delivered a £7 million pound flood alleviation scheme in 2009-10 as a result of the flooding experiences in 2004 and 2005, where over 40 homes and business were flooded. This scheme involved a combination of flood walls, lowered spillways and on adjacent agricultural flood embankments and demountable defences. There is an existing flood warning system in place for the Afon Conwy in Llanwrst and Trefriw. There is also a North Wales Coastline flood service for potential tidal flooding.
In Llanfair TH and Nant Barrog catchment, which is part of the larger Elwy and Clwyd catchment, NRW are working on final phases of a flood alleviation project and Natural Flood Management project to help manage the residual fluvial flood risks to the community in the longer term.
NRW recent investment with improvements to the St Asaph (Afon Elwy) from £6 million pound flood investment scheme completed in 2018 helped protect hundreds of properties during the storm events of Ciara and Dennis in 2020, which without the scheme up to 370 properties would have been at risk from serious flooding, as experienced in 2012.
There is an Elwy and Gele catchment flood alert system from Gwytherin to St.Asaph and including Abergele and registration is open to individual properties from the NRW website and residents can also check their local flood risk using postcode checker. Different levels of alerts have different meanings and actions required.
NRW has a number of ongoing flood risk capital and maintenance projects in Clwyd, including Tidal Clwyd, Rhyl and Prestatyn, Gele, Ruthin.
Denbighshire County Council has carried out flood risk management schemes at Ruthin, Llangollen, Corwen, Gwyddelwern, Denbigh and St Asaph, which reduces flood risk for 1,350 properties at a cost of around £16m. There are further schemes proposed at Dyserth and Rhyl (Ffordd Derwen). Denbighshire County Council has also carried out coastal defence schemes at West Rhyl, which reduces flood risk for 2,000 properties at a cost of £13m, and at East Rhyl, which reduces flood risk for 1,800 properties at a cost of £27m. There are further coastal defence schemes in development for Central Rhyl and Central Prestatyn.
Conwy Council are currently investing in improvements to coastal defences from Llanfairfechan to Kinmel Bay to reduce the future flood risk. Additionally, rural communities have benefitted from the completion of flood alleviation works at Llanrwst and Mochdre whilst other schemes are planned at Llansannan, Penmaenmawr, Dolwyddelan and Betws Y Coed.
Not all flood risks can be removed and there are communities which remain at risk despite the presence of defences. Conwy and Denbighshire have a significant number of existing communities at existing flood risk, which could experience increased frequency to flooding events in the future from the impacts of climate change.
 The National Strategy for Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management in Wales. Welsh Government October 2020
 The National Strategy for Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management in Wales. Welsh Government October 2020
 The English National Study for Flooding and Health: First year report. PHE Publications gateway number 2016575. CC 2017
Both counties have a long history of flooding. Flooding has caused problems for homes, commercial properties and closures of major transport routes including the A55 trunk road.
For example Towyn floods in 1990 affected 2,800 properties when a combination of strong onshore winds, low pressure and spring tides caused severe tidal flooding and damage. Flood events in Ruthin, St Asaph and Rhyl in 2012/13 affected almost 700 properties.
More recently impacts have come from extreme weather events like Storms Ciara and Dennis in February 2020 and Storm Christoph in January 2021. During Storm Ciara a rain gauge at Llanrwst received the equivalent of 76% of an entire month’s rainfall in 16 hours (100.2mm of rainfall)
The Met Office confirmed that February 2020 was the wettest February on record in Wales and the UK. During Storm Ciara in February 2020 the River Elwy at Pont Y Gwyddel reached its highest level since the start of records in 1974.
Not every storm can be attributed to the effects of climate change, but evidence suggests that unfortunately we are likely to see more of these extreme weather events.
In Wales, there is a high probability that unprecedented weather events including coastal storms, flooding, heatwaves, and droughts will increase in the years ahead. Summers are projected to be warmer and drier, winters milder and wetter, and sea levels predicted to rise across the country by up to 24 cm by 2050. In Wales, the impacts of climate change will not be felt equally across the country – economically and socially disadvantaged people will be disproportionately impacted. Existing inequalities are likely to be compounded, with people living in lower-income areas and more exposed locations having fewer available resources to mitigate and adapt to changes in the climate.
The “Inequality in a Future Wales” report states:
“The poorest and most marginalised populations are least responsible for climate change but are a) the most likely to be exposed to its negative effects b) more susceptible to damage and c) have the least resources to respond, cope and recover. Climate change mitigation could benefit marginalised communities if done well but could increase inequalities if the impacts on different groups in society are not factored in. It is important that climate change does not become separated from equalities thinking and understanding, or limited to decarbonisation when it is just one part of achieving sustainability and well-being for people and planet. The broad portfolio of the new Climate Change Ministry is therefore welcomed as an important opportunity for integration.”
General climate change projections show an increased likelihood of more frequent and intense rainfall. It is expected that severe events such as the 2020 storms will become more common with increased severity and frequency of flooding of homes, communities and businesses.
At the same time, coastal flooding is a growing threat due to accelerating mean sea-level rise and increases in storminess and wave heights. This will exacerbate the exposure of the coast to flooding and coastal erosion; and will increase the risk to the coastal assets and the costs to maintain them to acceptable standards.
These climate change associated impacts will increase the number of properties, infrastructure and key services at risk of flooding from all sources. Places not previously at risk could become vulnerable and many currently at risk could be of greater risk.
The population at risk of exposure to flooding is expected to increase as a result of changes in land-use, urbanisation and development in low-lying areas.
Climate change impacts will increase the risk to our coastal assets and the costs to maintain them to acceptable standards.
It will not be possible to prevent all flooding; there is therefore a need to use a range of approaches to not only reduce the risk where possible, but to adapt our communities and infrastructure to be prepared for severe weather events and rising sea levels. This may involve improving defences, but equally will also mean better management of land and water across catchments to reduce run-off, intelligent planning eg updated TAN15 planning guidance and retro-fitting of our towns and cities and, in some cases, creating space for water and recognising the need to move out of harm’s way.
What do we need to do?
Organisations and bodies responsible for flood risk and coastal erosion risk management need to continue to work together to improve their understanding of flood risk and to develop an integrated catchment approach, leading to the delivery of flood risk management benefits, working together with communities, businesses and other partners.
There’s a need for commissioners and providers of primary care, community services and mental health services and emergency planners to be alert to the potential for poor mental health amongst people whose homes have been flooded, as well as those whose lives have been disrupted by flooding and to plan for an increased need for services in areas affected, or likely to be affected, by flooding.
The UK Climate Change Risk Assessment 2017 Evidence Report highlights that climate risks will affect people differently, depending on their social, economic and cultural environment. Low-income households are particularly susceptible to climate change impacts, as these impacts disproportionally affect their resources.
These groups also have lower capacity and resources to adapt. Evaluation of climate risks and actions must consider these social, cultural, economic and effects, given areas along our coastline in North Wales are at significant flood risk and most deprived communities in Wales.
Developing ways of working to empower and enable landowners and communities to understand their roles and risks and identify measures which will help to improve resilience to flooding in the longer term.
Some suggested actions:
Improve understanding and awareness of flood risk management, as well as the different roles and responsibilities of individuals and organisations, using multiple and innovative methods visual and arts/languages.
Take a strategic approach to flood risk within the Local Development Plan using thetools within the strategic environmental assessment (Sustainability Appraisal)
Identify key communities which need to take action to help them prepare and become more resilient to flood risk (in a practical sense but also to support them with any challenges that might experience to their health and mental health as a result of flood risk).
 Dr Sara MacBride-Stewart & Dr Alison Parken (2021). Inequality in a Future Wales: Areas for action in work, climate and demographic change. The findings are summarised within a Summary Report and ‘Bite-size’ version with Easy Read and BSL versions available also. For those who are interested in the more detailed analysis you can access the full technical report.
People want to see a proactive approach to planning and support to prevent localised flooding within villages and towns rather than communities having to take a reactive approach when faced with these issues. There was mention of considerations to emergency planning preparedness on where we should site hospitals, care homes, schools, industry and residential areas in light of flooding risks. They stressed the importance of ensuring we can connect to these important areas and facilities in times of flooding.
The Area Statement process is facilitated by Natural Resources Wales under the requirements of the Environment Act (Wales) 2016 and provides the space for stakeholders to co-create the resilient environment we all need to survive and thrive in Conwy and Denbighshire. During a number of actual and online workshops from 2019 to 2021, participants had the opportunity to share their insights, discuss the local context, understand the challenges in the local area before co-creating interventions that would ultimately contribute to creating a more resilient and sustainable future for us all.
During the area statement process people told us that:-
As a result of climate change, rising sea levels will affect vulnerable communities along the coast in North West Wales. It’s important to make communities more resilient to be able to adapt to an ever-changing climate including considering nature-based solutions
Often very productive agricultural land is on the coast or on the banks of rivers which could be lost or impacted due to flooding or sea level, in turn due to climate change
They were concerned about flooding and coastal erosion. Managing the existing and future risk is key along the North Wales coastline, together with the Dee and Clwyd catchments
Currenly no content.
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.