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Suffolk Coastal: Peer calls for merger of departments in bid to simplify flood prevention measures

11:00 31 March 2014

Suffolk coast against retreat AGM.

Suffolk coast against retreat AGM.

Sarah Lucy brown

Former secretary of state for the environment Lord Deben has called for government departments to merge in a bid to simplify measures of flood prevention and coastal protection for local communities.

Former Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer, asked for the change, to combine the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the planning authorities, at the Suffolk Coast Against Retreat (SCAR) AGM this weekend.

Lord Deben said: “We have to have a department of land use and planning which would put together Defra and the agriculture section of the current Communities and Local Government department because it’s mad to have a divorce of the planning authority and the planning area which it is responsible for; flood prevention, sea defences, and the whole area of agriculture.

“So we need to put those together and we need to make it the serious department it should be.

“Defra is a small department that is very often overlooked because it doesn’t have the resources it needs.

“Make it the department of land use and planning and you begin to have a proper long term view of what we should do.

“Secondly we should have that department responsible for the whole of the sea coast and it should use the local authority as it’s agent instead of bits being looked after by the local authority and bits being looked after by the Environment Agency.”

Lord Deben said that he had tried to get this as environment secretary but it was opposed “tooth and nail” by the treasury.

He said: “And the reason was, if you have one authority responsible for it all, it’s extremely difficult not to see what the price is.

“I want the local authority to become responsible and I want the Environment Agency to be the advisor because you have to have a centre of excellence.”

He said that with one government minister responsible there would be someone to hold to account.

Lord Deben also discussed how global records were being broken because of climate change, which was being caused by humans heating up the atmosphere by burning coal and oil.

He also said that the global issue was being understood by world leaders, and that they were acting upon it.

Following the meeting he said on the merging of departments: “What it would mean is there would be a simple way of making decisions.

“You would use the local authority for their purpose, and have the Environment Agency as there source of expertise, and it would be overseen by one minister.

“You save time and you save money, and people know where to go.”

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