Long-term solutions needed to address flooding of agricultural land

Monday 14th October 2013

Water vole - at risk from new plans to deregulate dredging and de-silting of rivers (Amy Lewis)

As Environment Secretary Owen Paterson today announced new ‘river maintenance’ pilot schemes to help manage the flooding of agricultural land in England, The Wildlife Trusts respond.

Paul Wilkinson, The Wildlife Trusts’ Head of Living Landscape, said:

“This pilot scheme will allow landowners to carry out work to de-silt watercourses without consent from the Environment Agency.  Activities like dredging or de silting of rivers are high-risk: they have the potential to damage the habitat of declining species such as water vole and white-clawed crayfish and can impact on water quality and water quantity downstream.  In addition such activities will achieve little long-term gain in terms of flood risk management.  As such this is an initiative about which we have serious concerns.
 

Working with nature to manage water would not only help achieve a sustainable and cost effective approach, it will also bring added benefits for farmers and communities in the longer term

“It is important that these pilots consider the full range of options - both short and longer term - for addressing flooding of agricultural land.  We hope that they will provide an opportunity for stakeholders to come together to consider a range of land use and land management options to reduce the impacts of flooding.  For example, making space for water by creating or restoring wetland areas or slowing the rate at which water runs off the uplands into rivers can help protect important areas for agriculture downstream.

“Government must prioritise a natural processes approach to these issues. Working with nature to manage water would not only help achieve a sustainable and cost effective approach, it will also bring added benefits for farmers and communities in the longer term.

“These pilots and Defra’s ‘Catchment Based Approach’ to delivering improvements to our rivers, must take a holistic approach to water and the unique wildlife our rivers and wetlands support.  Thorough monitoring of the pilots will be essential, as it would be catastrophic for our wetland wildlife if short-term measures implemented under this process resulted in long-term damage, with no or little improvement to the problem farmers face during flood events.”

The pilots will cover seven areas:
• Alt Crossens, Lancashire
• Bottesford Beck, North Lincolnshire
• River Brue, Somerset
• River Duckow, Shropshire
• River Idle, Nottinghamshire
• Upper Thames, Oxfordshire
• Winestead Drain – East Ridings of Yorkshire

The River Maintenance Pilots
Under these pilots, farmers and landowners at risk of flooding will be allowed to carry out work to de-silt watercourses without needing to obtain consent.  The River Maintenance Pilots will be overseen by the Environment Agency and will last for one year.  More information about the pilots and details of local contact can be found on the Environment Agency’s website.  Landowners and farmers will be able to start river maintenance activities according to the new guidance from Monday 21 October.  The findings of the Maintenance Pilots will be used to develop a new improved system of consents for managing river maintenance by 2015, as part of the reforms being introduced in the Water Bill.

Tagged with: Living Landscapes, Flooding; agriculture