Alastair Chisholm at Flood & Coast 2024 in Telford

Policy reflections from Flood & Coast 2024

Flooding, Management & Regulation, Natural Environment

Amidst a General Election campaign, policy pronouncements were conspicuous by their absence. Instead the focus for discussion was firmly on delivery and in particular, how to work effectively in partnership and how funding could be made more accessible. CIWEM's Director of policy Alastair Chisholm gives his views on where we go next, and policy & engagement manager Catherine Moncrieff discusses the newly released coastal change report.

Given the honour of being an opening speaker at Flood and Coast, I said what stood out to me on the programme was the consistent strand across the three days (curated, let’s not forget, by multiple different strategic partners) of partnership and collaboration.

And so it was. This isn’t because of CIWEM’s focus on these aspects and role in the programme development. It’s because these are the major delivery challenges being felt in the flood and coastal community.

The low-hanging fruit of obvious schemes with straightforward business cases have in many instances been widely delivered, to a high standard. Now, there is growing focus on more distributed, multi-stakeholder interventions. Individually small quite often, but adding up to something bigger at catchment scale.

Not only is this potentially more complicated and messy to navigate and deliver, but funding mechanisms aren’t yet optimised to enabling these kinds of approaches. If it was ever easy to get partnership funding, these days it’s even more challenging. And then there’s the challenge around funding for maintenance, which is potentially less-secure than for delivery. It isn’t so much the quantum of funding available for flood and coastal risk management, but its accessibility for often small teams stretched and pulled in many directions.

Working with nature, working with communities aren’t new, but they’re less mature with more limited evidence-bases and more complex to hang values off or ascribe outcome certainty to. And risk management authorities communities and wider stakeholders are still grappling with how to unlock the best progress through such projects.

The message from communities was clear: Do with us, not to us. Time, and care is needed to listen, understand and inform; things which take time. All this in the face of a climate emergency throwing greater extremes of weather at us.

Thankfully there is no shortage of examples of where things are being done successfully, where innovation is taking place and new ground is being broken – inspiration is a powerful fuel. But we also need to be open and honest about what hasn’t gone well, what challenges have been faced and even mistakes have been made. And crucially, how these were overcome and what lessons were learned.

This year’s Flood and Coast saw policy silenced by an election. Next year we’ll have a new government with approaching a year under its belt to do new thinking. Perhaps we’ll see more announcements, but for practitioners the realities of partnership delivery, community engagement and unlocking funding and investment are likely to remain front and centre of the discussion.

Reflections from Catherine Moncrieff and the launch of new coastal change report

I was thrilled to launch our report Postcards from the Edge’ at Flood and Coast 2024. The report compiles reflections and recommendations on coastal change from a range of coastal practitioners and researchers.