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Fairbourne Flood Risk Management – An overview


The Fairbourne Moving Forward Project Board, led by Gwynedd Council where Natural Resources Wales (NRW) is a member, in discussion with the community and other key partners, has set an intent to defend the village of Fairbourne in Gwynedd for a period of 40 years (from 2014).

As long as funding is available, NRW will continue to monitor and maintain its flood defence assets to protect the community of Fairbourne.

This time period will be reviewed taking into account information developed as part of the Fairbourne Moving Forward project.

The Flood Risk Management Scheme

NRW’s £6.8million scheme protects over 400 properties in Fairbourne from potential tidal flooding from the Mawddach estuary. The scheme also defends Fairbourne from river flooding.

Completed in 2015, the scheme involved strengthening 1.8 miles of the tidal defences at Fairbourne and Arthog, and rebuilding the river Henddol and Morfa outfalls to provide better control of flood water.

A new flood channel was also created for the river Henddol to divert floodwater away from the village during high river flows.

We recognise that short periods of river water in parts of gardens can be worrying for some residents. However, the scheme is not designed to stop all flooding. During very high river flows, the river will come out of channel in places, using the floodplain and preventing the flooding of buildings and keep people safe.

A new area of developing saltmarsh was created at Morfa Friog, in line with the planning condition for the flood scheme. This area replaces natural tidal habitats that are prevented from developing over the coming years due to the construction of the scheme. 

Current and Ongoing Work

Maintenance - what we’ve done recently

i Friog Corner

The sea wall is Fairbourne’s main defence from coastal flooding. Winter storms in 2013 and 2014 eroded part of the beach in front of NRW’s coastal defence structure at Friog corner, which affected the base of the defence.

In response, NRW carried out emergency works to protect a 75 metre section of the concrete defence, using rock armour from a local quarry.

Beach shingle helps to support the engineered structure. However, at Friog corner, over time, the shingle tends to erode away. Although this happens naturally, it puts the concrete defence under greater pressure, increasing the risk of damage.

While NRW is investigating the longer-term options for Friog corner we are continuing with our monitoring and maintenance programme. This includes a contingency plan to deal with post storm damage.

During September 2016, NRW contractors moved around 1,000 tonnes of beach shingle to fill in the area of recent erosion.

NRW and Cyngor Gwynedd are carrying out drone surveys of Fairbourne beach to understand, in more detail, the natural movement pattern of beach shingle. This will help inform future maintenance work.

ii River Henddol

Part of our ongoing commitment includes maintaining the river Henddol. This mainly involves cutting weeds on an annual basis, which allows water to flow freely.

A new set of stop logs have been installed at the inlet to the Ffordd Corsen bypass channel, allowing NRW to adjust the balance of flows. This will alleviate pressure on the Ffordd Corsen channel and should help manage symptoms of water inundation such as wet lawns.

We will be installing water level monitoring instruments on the Afon Henddol to improve our operational response to high river levels and to inform our longer term understanding of rainfall event impacts on the river.

Longer-term plans for Friog Corner

We are undertaking work in partnership with the Fairbourne Moving Forward Technical Group, using the best and most up-to-date information we have for the Fairbourne coast, to:

  • Understand shingle movement to date and model how it will move in the future at Friog Corner and along Fairbourne beach;
  • Understand wave action and overtopping at Friog Corner and how it affects the defence;
  • Consider options to improve the sea defence at Friog Corner that will provide protection for at least 40 years and ensure this complements the Fairbourne Moving Forward Masterplan

This will enable us to identify a preferred option for improving the sea defences at Friog Corner and request funding from Welsh Government.

We can then go on to design the preferred option, with a view to carrying out construction work in Spring 2018.

Morfa Friog

Morfa Friog was a key aspect of progressing the Fairbourne Flood scheme. The intertidal saltmarsh habitat provides suitable mitigation measures for the loss of wildlife habitats in the future as a result of the flood scheme works – a condition of developing the scheme.

Morfa Friog began to develop into a saltmarsh habitat in November 2015 when a small breach in the embankment was made.

We acknowledge that, in its current form, the site is not appealing and that the Public Right of Way is impacted. However, we wish to reiterate that the habitat has to be given time to evolve and nature will adapt.

We are in the process of developing a more detailed monitoring plan for the site and will be able to give more, evidence based information about the site as the monitoring and evolution of the site progresses.

New signage will be installed at the site to better inform the community and those visiting the area about the development of the site and to help everyone understand the work and NRW’s approach.

Concerns raised regarding the sustainability of the Public Right Of Way at the site are currently being considered and we are working with Gwynedd Council and the local community in relation to this.

Being prepared for flooding

Fairbourne will always experience symptoms of flooding. Due to the flat terrain, low lying aspect and elevated water table, water can build up easily and quickly. Working together, our challenge is to limit the greater risk to the community and learn to adapt what we do and how we respond.

It is important that the community is prepared for flooding. NRW has been working closely with the Fairbourne Flood Warden Group to increase the number of residents registered to receive Flood Warning messages for tidal flooding. The Flood Warden Group has been visiting properties and owner-occupied caravans and chalets in Fairbourne to promote the Flood Warning Service, getting customers to register or to update their records.

Out of 452 properties and owner-occupied caravans and chalets located in either the Fairbourne Seafront or Fairbourne and Arthog Flood Warning Areas, 432 are registered to receive warnings. This means that 96 percent of the population of Fairbourne is better prepared for the possibility of tidal flooding in the future.

NRW will continue to work with the Fairbourne Flood Warden Group over the coming years to keep their Community Flood Plan up to date.

The Flood Warden Group has also developed its own website that residents can use to find out more information about what they can do before, during and after a flood.

The website also provides information about the Community Flood Plan and about the Flood Wardens themselves. The website address is

For further information about the Fairbourne Community Flood Plan, contact your designated Flood Warden.

Anyone concerned about flooding can check their flood risk and register for free flood warnings by calling Floodline on 0345 988 1188 or by visiting

Progress and keeping the community informed

We are committed to engaging with the community about our work in an open and meaningful way. The continued understanding and support of the community is very important to us as we work to defend Fairbourne in the short and medium term.

Information gathered and shared by the community can be an important source of evidence to help understand flood risk problems. Photos of wet areas and flood issues can make a valuable contribution in investigating such problems as we continue to monitor the area closely.

NRW will provide regular updates on its work. If you have any enquiries about NRW’s flood risk management activities in Fairbourne, please contact:

August 2017

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