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Call to simplify rules on farmer flood maintenance

Government must make it easier for farmers and landowners to carry out flood defence and maintenance work if the system is to work better in the future, industry has warned. 

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Call to simplify rules on farmer flood maintenance

The CLA made the call as Defra announced its long-term plan to tackle the risks of flooding and coastal erosion from 2021-2027, costing £5.2 billion.

 

The capital fund will cover the creation of 2,000 new flood and coastal defences to protect 336,000 properties in England by 2027, with a further £200m investment for projects such as nature-based solutions and up to £170m for flood defence schemes to begin construction in 2021.

 

But CLA president Mark Bridgeman was quick to highlight long-term funding for maintenance of existing flood defence assets, including ring-fenced funding for protection of agricultural land, remained vitally important in helping combat ongoing flooding problems.


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Mr Bridgeman said: “Farmers and landowners often spot problems with flood defences and maintenance requirements but bureaucracy often prevents early preventative actions.

 

“There should be a simpler system enabling farmers to carry out minor flood defence work on their own property to protect their assets and livelihoods.

 

“The value from flooding land to protect properties and business should be recognised in future land management agreements and build in the soft engineering solutions of trees and other natural features that slow the water flow and can offer natural flood management alongside the hard engineering.”

 

NFU deputy president Stuart Roberts added while farmers play a significant role in preventing floods reaching towns and cities, the onus must not fall solely on the farmer, with the need for appropriate support to be put in place which accounts for the maintenance and liability of such schemes.

 

In the plan, Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined five key strategies of the plan which included upgrading and expanding flood defences and infrastructure, managing the flow of water to reduce flood risk and manage drought, harnessing the power of nature to reduce flood risk and deliver benefits for the environment, better preparing communities for flooding and erosion and a comprehensive local plan for dealing with flooding and coastal erosion in every area of England.

 

Strategy

 

Following the announcement, the Environment Agency (EA) published its long-term flood and coast risk management strategy for England.

 

The document set out how the EA will use a series of natural flood management schemes to help deliver the Government’s plan during the next decade.

 

Defra Secretary, George Eustice, branded the strategy on becoming more resilient to flooding and coastal erosion by maintaining flood defences and increasing investment in nature-based solutions as ’ambitious’.

 

“It ensures ideas like reconnecting rivers with their natural floodplain or creating new areas where water can be stored and used in times of drought will become mainstream flood protection policies in the years to come,” Mr Eustice said.

 

 

But the NFU said it was concerning the EA appears to no longer consider flood defences to protect farmland as a suitable part of its strategy.

 

Mr Roberts added: "Many of these flood defences are deteriorating, unfortunately in part due to the lack of value the government has placed on maintaining them.

"Our view is that these defences are a crucial part of an ambitious flood strategy and they warrant proper investment, alongside nature-based solutions.”

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