Urban areas prioritised for flood defence cash

Rural and agricultural areas stand to gain little from the government’s £2.3bn investment in flood risk management, the CLA has warned.

Most of the investment would go into capital projects to protect towns and cities, with the nation’s farmland left to cope with increasingly frequent flooding following sharp cuts to the Environment Agency’s £50m maintenance budget.

“The new funding process has failed to deliver a complete overhaul of prioritisation techniques, cost benefit valuations and discounting assumptions for land,” said CLA president Harry Cotterell.

“Placing limited value on agricultural land and buildings compared to more urban residential properties limits the scope for rural flood defence projects to achieve favourable cost benefit outcomes.”

Although the EA had said it would allow farmers and land managers to undertake maintenance work when it was unable to do so, large projects like dredging the River Tone in Somerset would remain without funding.

Parts of the Somerset Levels has been under water for months, leaving large areas barren and lifeless. But while a study revealed that dredging the River Tone would yield cost benefits, the economic case was not great enough to meet government guidelines.

A new petition calling on DEFRA to dredge the river system on the Somerset Levels was rapidly gaining support. “The series of catastrophic floods is entirely avoidable,” said Andrew Lee, who launched the petition.

“It largely stems from the Environment Agency’s refusal to dredge the river system for the past 25 years. “Currently, large sums of money are being wasted trying to pump water off the fields, many of which have been flooded for more than 10 months,” he added.

“We want to see the rivers in the Somerset Levels and in other flooding hotspots to be properly dredged.”

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Watch a video about Somerset farmer Barrie Bryer’s struggle with flooded fields