Bales in flooded fields© Global Warming Images/Rex Shutterstock

The government has been urged to offer stronger tax incentives to landowners to encourage them to invest in flood defences.

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) said severe winter storms forecast to batter Britain over the coming months highlighted the need to help defend rural communities and protect the country’s agricultural land from flooding.

CLA president Ross Murray said floods could have a distressing effect on farmland and rural businesses, and posed a serious risk to the country’s food security.

See also: Farms rebuild in wake of winter floods

Mr Murray said landowners were prepared to take action to protect their land from flooding.

But he said there needed to be a greater incentive for them to spend time and money in going through the frustrating planning processes to do so.

Mr Murray said: “We need new tax relief on capital investments as well as income tax relief for all forms of flood defence work carried out by individuals and businesses.”

“Where internal drainage boards [IDBs] work well they are the epitome of practical local partnerships, bringing the community together to implement pragmatic solutions.

“At present just over 50% of Grade 1 agricultural land in England is situated within IDBs, along with nearly 900,000 properties.

“We must work together to ensure more areas have workable partnerships in place.

“With the comprehensive spending review just weeks away, issues around funding for initiatives such as new IDBs must not be ignored.”

The CLA’s calls came after a Met Office report this week warned that Britain should brace itself for severe winter storms over the next three months.

The Met Office said the biggest Super El Nino in 144 years could see parts of the country flooded by more than one-and-a-half feet of rain, with gale-force winds and freezing temperatures also on the horizon.

“The risk of spells of windy or stormy weather is greater than usual,” the report said.

“There is clear shift towards above-average rainfall.

“El Nino moderately increases the probability of increased frequency of Atlantic depressions crossing the UK and wetter-than-average conditions.”