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Governments must make it easier for farmers to maintain watercourses

Farm chiefs in Scotland have called on the Scottish Government to make it easier for farmers to carry out work on watercourses to reduce the flood risk to farmland, homes and businesses.


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Flooding has devastated farmland in Perthshire
Flooding has devastated farmland in Perthshire

Highlighting the need for a new approach, NFU Scotland said it would like to see a ‘change in attitude’ from Ministers.

 

The call has been echoed by farmers around the UK who said Government red tape surrounding watercourse maintenance made them feel as if they had their hands tied behind their back when it came to protecting homes and businesses and maximising environmental benefit.

 

Last week Environment Secretary Liz Truss told the Oxford Farming Conference Defra would give new powers to farmers to maintain ditches on their land.

 

But the announcement was criticised by some farmers who said they already has such permission under the Entry Level Stewardship Scheme.

 

A Defra spokesman said: “From April, subject to Parliamentary approval, farmers will be able to dredge up to 1.5km of agricultural ditches which currently need an Environment Agency permit, without the need for such a permit.”

 

NFU Scotland has been collating information to gain a wider picture of the damage caused by flooding in recent weeks to agricultural land across the country, including Perthshire, Dumfries, the Borders and the North East.

 

Valuable topsoil has been stripped from fields; debris dumped on land; fences, buildings and farm houses damaged and livestock lost.

 

NFUS president Allan Bowie said: “The damage seen on Scottish farms across the country has been extensive and a great deal of work will be required in the weeks and months ahead to put right the damage that has been done.

 

“It is important that farmers know that SEPA and the Scottish Government now allow the re-instatement of flood banks without the requirement for any permissions. Too often farmers fear doing the necessary repair work but they need not.

 

“Repairing with like for like material does not require approval and farmers can crack on when the weather permits.”

 

Bob Strachan whose land at Lochlands Farm, Perthshire, was badly flooded, added: “We are but a small example of the wider spread damage caused by the flooding to agricultural land in Scotland.

 

“We are happy with the approach SEPA is taking to the problem, and contrary to what we have thought in the past, we shouldn’t face a stumbling block to carry out initial repairs or on going reasonable works.

 

“We do need a longer-term plan to slow down the river and to mitigate against these once in 200 years events that are happening more and more frequently.”


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