Change of heart over farmland flooding

A north Lincolnshire grower says he can again invest in his business after the threat of increased flooding was lifted from 50,000ha (125,000 acres) of local farmland.

Protected by a series of drains and flood defences, Chris Moore (pictured) farms 486ha (1200 acres) of reclaimed flat warp soils at sea level with his brother David at Fleet Farm, West Butterwick, near Scunthorpe.

The Isle of Axholme farm – already prone to flooding – had been earmarked for seasonal inundation, a “return to nature” policy which would have seen it increasingly submerged for large parts of the year.

But a change of heart by the Environment Agency, a cash boost of more than £1m and the launch of a new flood defence group means productive agriculture in the area is likely to be saved.

Mr Moore, who sits on the Isle of Axholme Internal Drainage Board, said: “Two years ago we thought the whole area was going to be left as a flood plain. But the agency has finally realised it will cost more money to let it flood than protect it.”

The Environment Agency had warned that water pumps protecting the area from flooding were reaching the end of their working life. Keeping the river out was a battle against the forces of nature and unsustainable in the long term, it said.

But agency officials have since pledged not to walk away from the threat facing local farmers. They are reconsidering their plans, aiming to manage flood risk in a way that minimises the risk to people and property.

Local MP Ian Cawsey has been appointed chairman of a new flood defence partnership. It will work with local farmers and residents to devise a new flood defence strategy for the Isle of Axholme.

The group includes about 40 representatives from the internal drainage boards, the regional flood defence committee, North Lincolnshire Council, the NFU, the Environment Agency and local landowners.