Flood officials this week came together to hold the government to account on its management of flood risk after criticism it was ‘rarely considered’.
In a joint debate with the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) and the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, members called for a strengthened policy to protect UK communities from increasing flood risk.
EAC chairman Neil Parish told delegates current flood prevention in the UK was ‘fragmented’, ‘inefficient’ and ‘sometimes ineffective’.
He said farmers could do more to hold water as a natural flood defence.
“Farmers are cautious folk,” Mr Parish said. “They do not want to flood their land if there is not a good reason to do so, or no good results or consequences.
“If we can prove there will be good results, I am sure they would do it.”
Mr parish said the government should tell farmers how much it would cost to store water on their land for the short or long term, what it would achieve, the foregone effects of not growing crops but storing water and how much they would be paid.
It came as a letter from the Secretary of State Andrea Leadsom confirmed the re-appointment of two ministers in their role of flood envoys to help ‘effective long-term strategic planning to manage flood risk’.
NFU flood management adviser Martin Rogers backed the claims with suggestions government spending must be transparent and the increased frequency of extreme weather events must be recognised.
He added: “Some of our most productive and highest value agricultural land lies in floodplains or coastal regions, vulnerable to flooding, and deserves to be protected.
“It is essential that there is adequate engagement with farmers and landowners and that proper incentives are in place to demonstrate the flood mitigation service farmers are providing to others in the catchment.”
The NFU has called for better long-term planning and for the government to ‘recognise the importance and value’ or productive farmland considering the wider benefits such as protecting and enhancing the environment.