Allocations of natural flood management funding have been made by Defra from a £15 million fund previously announced.
The funding has been split between small community led projects and larger catchment scale projects.
Thirty-four community projects led by e.g. councils, wildlife trusts, river trusts and local action groups, have been named as winners of a £1m government-funded competition.
They will be able to use landscape features including ponds, banks, meanders, channels and trees to store, drain or slow flood water, according to Defra.
Twenty-four other catchment scale projects, mainly led by the Environment Agency, have also been allocated £14m funding in total to develop larger scale projects impacting upon wider areas. Cumbria; Greater Manchester, Merseyside, and Cheshire; and Wolsingham, Northumberland, will each receive more than £1m of funding.
NFU flood management policy adviser Martin Rogers said: “Natural flood management is not a silver bullet. I hope at the locations chosen there will be work to monitor and try to understand their effectiveness.
“Natural flood management may have a place but is not a panacea – it is one of the tools in the box and cannot and never should replace flood defences or river maintenance work.”
Mr Rogers also said there should have been prior landowner engagement before the schemes were announced and if this had not happened it needs to be ‘the very next step’. “Only with farmer engagement will the schemes get off the ground.”
North Yorkshire based arable farmer Richard Bramley has seen his land flooded eight times in the last 17 years. Although none of the projects affect him directly, he gives a cautious welcome to the catchment wide schemes but says farmers need to be properly supported and compensated for the wider role they have in managing water flow.
“Since a whole series of floods in 2012, 2013 and 2015 the relevance of natural flood management and slowing the flow has definitely come to the fore. If it is part of a catchment wide approach I think it is a sensible way forward to improving flood management by virtue of the fact that we are not allowing water to disappear quickly through catchments and which can also help in dry conditions.
“£15m is a start but not a massive amount given the scale of the problem – we are just dipping our toes in the water.
“Providing there is proper recognition of the impact it will have on farmers’ farms and there is payment to reflect losses if the farm is providing a service that’s of benefit to others, in theory there shouldn’t be a downside.
“But there is still a certain amount of experimenting. There is a potential downside if there has been a miscalculation. Until we are doing it and monitoring results we won’t know.”
While he accepts trying to managing floodwater naturally is generally better than ‘expensive engineering projects’, Mr Bramley says it is important to understand how the whole catchment functions. There is a danger with small individual projects that an embankment is built around the settlement which could pull water on to farmland, he warns.