Regional Flood and Coastal Committee Chair appointments

The RFCC chair appointments have been announced

The English Severn and Wye, Thames and Wessex Regional Flood and Coastal Committee (RFCC) Chair appointments have been announced.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is pleased to announce, following the recent recruitment campaign, the appointments of:

  • Cllr Matthew Riddle as the new Chair for the English Severn and Wye RFCC;
  • Paula Hewitt as the new Chair for the Thames RFCC; and
  • Dr Rachel Gavey as the new Chair for the Wessex RFCC.

RFCCs help to provide governance for the Environment Agency’s FCERM functions and cover all flood risks that are not the responsibility of the water companies. They have three main purposes:

  • to ensure there are coherent plans for identifying, communicating and managing flood and coastal erosion risks across catchments and shorelines.
  • to promote efficient, targeted and risk-based investment in flood and coastal erosion risk management that optimises value for money and benefits for local communities.
  • to provide a link between the Environment Agency, lead local flood authorities, other risk management authorities, and other relevant bodies to engender mutual understanding of flood and coastal erosion risks in its area.

These appointments have been made on merit in accordance with the Governance Code for Public Appointments and political activity plays no part in the selection process. However, there is a requirement for appointees’ political activity (if significant) to be declared.

All RFCC Chair posts attract a remuneration of £18,927 per annum for a commitment of five days per month.

Background details on the new RFCC Chairs

English Severn and Wye RFCC Chair: Cllr Matthew Riddle

Matthew is a farmer by profession who holds a part-time lectureship at Bridgwater and Taunton College / University Centre Somerset, lecturing in agriculture and environment. He is also a local Councillor for the Severn Vale Ward on South Gloucestershire Council.

Over the last twenty-one years he has been involved in water and flood management, as a former Member of the Wessex RFCC, five years as the Chair of the Lower Severn Internal Drainage Board, and as former Leader of South Gloucestershire Council, which is a lead local flood authority. He is currently the Vice-Chair of the South West Branch of the Association of Drainage Authorities.

He was one of the founding Members, and Chair, of the West of England Combined Authority which will bring over £1 billion of additional infrastructure funding to the sub-region. The new Authority was developed after a period of partnership working with neighbouring Councils, and the government, on a number of infrastructure projects, including the new £100 million sea defences in the Avonmouth and Severnside Enterprise Area.

Matthew was presented with the High Sheriff of Gloucestershire’s Award for ‘Great and Valuable Services to the Community’ in 2016, and in 2023 he was awarded the Lower Severn Internal Drainage Board Award for ‘Outstanding Service and Dedication’.

Thames RFCC Chair: Paula Hewitt

Until Autumn 2023, Paula was Deputy Chief Executive and Lead Director for Economic & Community Infrastructure at Somerset County Council, where she was responsible for a diverse mix of services ranging from highways and waste to economic development, property and libraries.

She also served as president of the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning & Transport (ADEPT) in 2021-2022 and prior to this chaired ADEPT’s Environment Board.

While at Somerset County Council, she led a number of high-profile service transformation programmes, addressing climate change and introducing innovative ways of delivering services, customer benefits and financial savings.

Paula was heavily involved in co-ordinating the local authority response to the significant Somerset floods in 2014 and led the work to minimise future flooding through the creation of the Somerset Rivers Authority. Following this, Paula was appointed as an expert adviser to the EU Committee of the Regions in relation to disaster resilience and drafted their position statement for the third UN world conference on Disaster Risk Reduction.

Paula is currently the first female chair of the South West Infrastructure Partnership, a collaboration of organisations and professionals, all with an interest in improving infrastructure in the South West. She is also a member of the board of the South West Business Council.

Wessex RFCC Chair appointment: Dr Rachel Gavey

Rachel is an accomplished industry professional with expertise spanning geology, energy, sustainability, and climate risk. Driven by a profound curiosity about the natural world and its intersection with human activities, she brings a wealth of global academic and industrial experience.

Following a BSc in Geological Oceanography, Rachel went on to achieve a PhD in Marine Geology focused on river and coastal sedimentology and processed, plus the impacts of climate forced events.

Throughout her professional journey, Rachel has held various geoscience based roles across the UK, Asia, and New Zealand. She has founded and leads two businesses advising global companies on energy transition, climate risk, ESG, and emissions reduction strategies. In 2021, Rachel was a finalist in the Business Women Scotland Sustainable Business Award, and proud winner of the Women in Technology Award.

Rachel is deeply committed to fostering engagement and dialogue on the challenges of energy transition, acting as a Board member for the Scottish Energy Forum, serving as Vice President from 2021-2023, and providing lectures at Bath University educating students on climate and the energy transition. She is also a regular presenter and panellist at conferences and events.

Rachel’s dedication to advancing our understanding of climate risk and enhancing resilience to environmental changes exemplifies her unwavering commitment to creating a positive impact through her work.

From: Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs