Defra has defended its spending on flood defences and promised ‘lessons will be learnt’ from the deluge which has wreaked havoc in Cumbria and the Scottish Borders.
It came as the NFU called for ‘urgent’ government assistance to help farmers whose homes and businesses have been devastated by the weekend’s floods.
The union’s president Meurig Raymond said farmers had seen livestock swept away in the flood water, cereal crops destroyed and farmland ravaged by landslides.
Mr Raymond said: “We strongly urge support for those of our members with fallen stock disposal, who require urgent repair to flood damaged property and help with feed delivery and milk collection,” he said.
“We need government and agencies to make it easier for farmers repairing flood damage to land, walls and fences, and to remove rubbish and debris, which is a threat to livestock welfare.
"In the longer term, we need more resilient channels and bridges able to cope with rapid run-off.
“Prompt action needs to be taken which uses all the tools in the box, including repairing banks and removing debris, whilst also slowing the flow, storing water and improving infiltration further upstream, where appropriate.
“We have also heard examples where gravel has been washed up on farms. Following the 2009 this was treated as hazardous waste when removal was attempted. We will be lobbying the Environment Agency and Defra on this point on behalf of members.”
The farming community quickly rallied to help the victims, with many pledging donations of forage and bedding. Read the story here
The Prince’s Countryside Fund (PCF) released £40,000 from its emergency fund to help rural communities, farmers and businesses affected by the wide scale destruction.
In total £30,000 will be donated to fund the farming help charities to help farmers and rural communities in the area and to provide immediate financial assistance.
The Cumbria Community Foundation will receive £10,000 to distribute to voluntary organisations to provide initial hardship grants of £500 to local people affected by the floods.
Claire Saunders, PCF director, said: “The full impact of the floods has yet to be realised, but many farms have lost livestock drowned in the flood waters, or been affected by landslips, while feed and equipment has been lost. The repairs to bridges, roads and dry stone walls will be an enormous job.
“This is a catastrophic blow to rural businesses which are already hard pressed. Many will be relying on Christmas trade to turn a profit and we need to act swiftly to help them get back on track.
"We’re urging farms and rural businesses in trouble to ask for help and contact the Farming Help charities and the Cumbria Community Foundation for advice and assistance.”
In a statement to the House of Commons, Environment Secretary Liz Truss said the Government had invested £45 million in new defences in Cumbria since 2009 and another £2.3 billion would be spent on 1,500 schemes throughout the country.
Ms Truss said: “Since 2009 we have invested £45 million in new defences in Cumbria. But we will need to learn lessons and reflect on what we can learn from this extreme weather event.”
She insisted the Government would spend more on flood protection in this parliament than under the coalition or the last Labour government and added flood maintenance spending would be protected.
David Cameron has promised a review of flood defence plans following the devastation caused by Storm Desmond.
The Liberal Democrats called on the Government to apply for a grant from the EU’s Solidarity Fund to help support affected communities.
The EU Solidarity Fund, with a budget of up to £359 million a year (500 million euros), was set up to provide financial assistance to EU countries struck by major natural disasters.
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said: “This funding could provide a lifeline for local authorities, helping them pay for clean-up costs and rebuilding vital infrastructure. It would be wrong to turn it down for political reasons."
In Scotland, where floods caused carnage in the Scottish Borders, Ministers said they were considering triggering the Bellwin Scheme - a discretionary scheme to give financial assistance to councils who face an undue financial burden as a result of large-scale emergencies.
Natural England said it would temporarily lift all the all the requirements which normally apply to Environmental Stewardship agreements and protected sites.
Simon Humphries, Natural England`s area manager for Cumbria, said: “Farmers are facing some incredibly difficult conditions on their land due to the recent floods and we want to provide help and advice, wherever we can, to support the farming community.
“We hope that this temporary lifting of restrictions will go some way to helping farmers at this difficult time.”