Defra issues call for evidence on flooding

The government is preparing to reveal how it will protect people and businesses from the devastating impact of flooding and coastal erosion.

Climate change and population growth mean the risk of flooding and coastal erosion will increase over the coming decades, said Defra minister Thérèse Coffey. It was important that threat was managed effectively, she added.

See also: Study highlights need for flood protection

Recent years have seen a number of major incidents involving farmland, including the Somerset floods of 2013-14 and flooding in Lincolnshire in December 2013. This summer saw Lincolnshire flooded again when the River Steeping broke its banks at Wainfleet.

Launching a call for evidence, Ms Coffey highlighted a number of areas where further information was required – including how local funding initiatives worked for flood risk management and what could be improved.

“While the government leads the way in ensuring our people and places are protected, we will be issuing a new national policy statement later this year which will be informed by a number of sources, including this call for evidence on which we are seeking views on key issues.”

Farmland importance

Responses to the call for evidence will inform a forthcoming policy statement on flooding and coastal erosion by the end of the year. They will also inform a national infrastructure strategy and the decisions made in a forthcoming spending review.

The call for evidence came as landowners and rural business leaders warned that the importance of agricultural land must not be ignored when it comes to the introduction of new flood-risk measures in England.

The Country Land and Business Association said farmland should be recognised for its key role assessed in producing food for the nation and responding to climate change – as well as in terms of its financial value.

The CLA issued the warning in its response to the Environment Agency’s draft national flood and coastal erosion risk management strategy consultation. Farmers should be encouraged to undertake flood management maintenance on their own land, it said.

Long-term funding

Sufficient long-term funding should be made available under the government’s forthcoming Environmental Land Management Schemes to incentivise natural flood management, for example by planting trees or encouraging saltmarshes, said the CLA.

CLA chief land use policy adviser Susan Twining said a common-sense approach was essential: “While focusing on urban areas is understandable, we cannot ignore the strategic importance of agricultural land to crop and livestock production.”

Coastal flooding could have a devastating long-term effect on previously productive land. Owing to the prohibitive cost of coastal protection, this type of flooding could become permanent, and sea water could devastate crops and render land unusable for years to come.

The deadline for responses to the call for evidence, which covers England only, is 19 August 2019.