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Scottish farmers urged to help prevent flooding

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Storm Frank and the flooding which ensued in the last days of December 2015 might be distant memory for some but not for the farmers who continued to deal with the aftermath.

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Scottish farmers urged to help prevent flooding

Many of them were in Perth in Monday evening (May 29) to hear Peter Pollard, water unit manager of SEPA (Scottish Environment Protection Agency) outline what was permissible in terms of repair and flood mitigation works.

 

Such meetings have been heated in the past with farmers and landowners hugely critical of SEPA’s heavy-handed approach but farmers said this one was more constructive.

 

NFU Scotland East Central region chairman Roddy Kennedy welcomed the sea change which was allowing practical flood prevention measures to go ahead.

 

Mr Pollard a made point of distinguishing between the types of watercourses.

 

Straight watercourses with a silt bed could be cleaned out under either General Binding Rules (GBRs), registration or licences depending on the scope of the work and in consideration of preventing silt contamination of the water downstream.

 

Gravel bedded watercourses needed more care when it came to flood prevention work.

 

Preserving fish stocks could be an issue but such rivers are also unstable.

 

“You have to do it right or the river can kick back and things can go badly wrong,” Mr Pollard said.

 

Farmers in the audience had called for more leeway in being allowed to remove gravel beds on a ’little and often’ basis but this would not always work.

 

Mr Pollard added: “Calculations following the Storm Frank floods which had devastated the Deeside town of Ballater found the river moved 105,000 tonnes of gravel downstream to be replaced with 55,000 tonnes from upstream.

 

"In this case removing gravel alone would have made very little difference to the outcome.

 

“We want to create demonstration sites and we can offer capital grants of up to £10,000 for engineering works. "There is £100,000 available and it will be lost it is not used this year so I urge you to take it up,“ Mr Pollard said.

 

Borehole fast-track plan after dry weather

 

The meeting may have been called to discuss flood prevention but ironically one of the main topics was the threat of drought.

 

Farmers and growers were being encouraged not to delay in applying for a borehole licence if they think they think they have a suitable site.

 

Peter Pollard, water unit manager for regulatory body SEPA, said: “We would try and turn applications round in two days. There is a water scarcity alert at the moment. Ground water levels are the lowest they have been at any time during the last 20 years. If it carries on raining fairly frequently as it has during May we could be alright but if not we could be in trouble when it comes to irrigating crops."

 

His concern was for the east coast of Scotland, particularly Fife and Angus where the streams and rivers tended to be smaller and shorter and where irrigation demand was likely to be highest.

 

Boreholes would not be approved near a source of drinking water or a wetland.

 

Otherwise, Mr Pollard was sure most approvals could be fast-tracked.

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