A Lake District farmer has hit out against the Environment Agency for not dredging the rivers after losing stock and having fields strewn with gravel in the Cumbrian floods.
Bassenthwaite sheep and beef farmer Bryan Fell lost six sheep in the chaos of Storm Desmond and now has to travel ten times as far to check stock on outlying fields.
And while he acknowledges an “unprecedented amount” of rain fell during the weekend on Saturday 5 December, he blames restrictions on dredging for the extent of the damage done to his farm.
Speaking to Farmers Weekly he said: “I actually had two environment agency staff stood right here where the beck was washed and I warned them that this would happen if we didn’t dredge the becks and take debris out to build the banks up.
“I said we would see floods, lose farmland and lose stock. The men in question won’t even return my calls, I can’t get in touch with them.”
One two-hectare field was particularly hard hit, with a third of it covered in slate and rubble, which was washed down from the foothills of Skiddaw.
He now has to make 30-mile round trip to check on stock following local bridge damage, although he admitted he has “got away lightly” compared to many in the North West and further afield.
“To be honest we are seeing this every couple of years now. My dad has been on this farm 70 years and he has seen this devastation as many times as my ten-year-old son has.
“We have had floods like this three times now in the last ten years. It is partly due to a lack of maintenance and no input at all from the Environment Agency.”
However, a spokesperson for the Environment Agency said dredging would not have been “beneficial”.
They added: “Dredging and clearing channels are important parts of the Environment Agency’s maintenance regime and we assess the value of dredging carefully on a location by location basis. Findings from a recent report show that dredging would not be beneficial.
“We have shared these details with the local community, the Parish Council and Mr Fell.
“Environment Agency teams have also been working with Mr Fell for a number of years to protect his land from erosion. A funding option has become available to address the issues of erosion, however without the support of the Parish Council we are unable to pursue this further.”