Farmers and landowners are calling for a new approach to flood prevention in order to protect against another disastrous weather event in the near future.
The CLA told the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) committee that better co-ordination between Defra and the Environment Agency and better use of resources to deliver catchment level water management plans would have prevented the severity of this winter’s flooding.
It came as forecasters predicted a wet spring, with heavy rain expected across Northern England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
CLA president Ross Murray said: “Government should be taking action now to incentivise landowners to ‘slow the flow’ by changing how they use their land or sacrificing it for flood water storage when necessary. The time to put this new approach in place is now – before rather than after homes and communities are hit by another major flood.
“Rural landowners want to be a part of the solution, but the right support and incentives need to be in place that will allow those willing to store flood water or put in place measures designed to slow its flow.”
Mr Murray said Government investment in water management in recent years had been ‘frustratingly piecemeal’ and called for the available resources to be deployed in a more joined up way.
Farmers and landowners have repeatedly spoken of their frustrations over government policy which often prevents much of the flood prevention work required on watercourses.
Some groups have taken matters into their own hands by working to establish and fund their own internal drainage boards and take power back from the local authority.
Farmers in West Lancashire have been asked to air their views on setting up a similar group, which would be responsible for managing the pumping stations and maintaining the water levels in the area.
CLA North regional surveyor Robert Frewen said: “Water Level Management Boards are a tried and tested model involving key local groups and individuals with a track record of managing flood risks efficiently and effectively in other parts of the country.
“They work because they are run by stakeholders from the local community with a direct interest in preventing flooding.”
The Government must conduct a review of the way it manages watercourses in order to develop policies which allow farmers to manage water and increase their flood resilience. Farmers including Richard Bramley, runs a 200 hectare (500 acres), arable farm in Selby, North Yorkshire pressed the Secretary of State Liz Truss on Defra’s policy around compensating farmers whose land is flooded.
Mr Bramley said: “What we need to see is some real recognition of the benefit farmland brings and also a comprehensive review of how we manage water throughout the catchment. That has been talked about but it needs to stop being talked about and we need to see action.”
Scottish farmers whose floodbanks were damaged in the winter 2015/16 storms, and who lie within one of nine eligible local authorities, are being urged to apply for a grant from the Agricultural Floodbank Repair Grant Scheme before it closes on Monday (February 29).
The Scottish Government set aside £1m for the scheme. It is available to assist those farmers whose floodbanks were damaged in the storms between December 5, 2015 and January 9, 2016.