UK farmland is at risk from flooding

28 September 2001

UK farmland is at risk from flooding

ABOUT 1.5mha (3.5m acres) 12% of agricultural land in the UK is potentially at risk from flooding or coastal erosion, according to a new government study.

The report, The National Appraisal of Assets at Risk from Flooding and Coastal Erosion, says the capital value of the agricultural land at risk is approximately £7bn. The area includes 218,000ha (538,675 acres) of Grade 1 land, 61% of the total in England and Wales and the report recommends that the current £0.24bn a year of investment in flood and coastal defences should be increased by 65%. And, if the predicted effect of global warming is taken into account, a further 20% a year may be needed to keep the sea at bay.

The reports release came within days of the launch of a £6.1m-scheme to flood farmland at Paull on the banks of the Humber to prevent thousands of homes being inundated by the river.

In what is the biggest project of its kind in the UK, two farmers have had 80ha (200 acres) of land purchased by the Environment Agency so that the area can be flooded, thereby reducing the need for increasingly-higher regional sea defences.

The scheme involves constructing a new line of defences 500 metres inland and the creation of a 150-metre breach in the existing defences to allow the land to be flooded at times of high tide.

It precedes a much more ambitious scheme on a 400ha (1000-acre) site at Alkborough, at the confluence of the rivers Trent, Ouse and Humber.

Meanwhile the Country Land and Business Association in East Anglia has warned that more farmland flooding can be expected during the coming winter because of Environment Agency inaction. The agency has told people with property at risk of flooding that they must be properly prepared for an emergency.

But, Paul Long, CLA regional director, believes the agency is trying to hand over its responsibilities to the people most likely to suffer from flooding.

"It must speed up measures to prevent flooding as well as warning people who live in flood plains of its dangers – dangers of which anyone living in this region is only too well aware," he said.

An Environment Agency spokesman said the latest scientific studies suggested that winter rainfall would increase.

"We are not handing over responsibility to people at risk of flooding but trying to work in partnership with them," he added. &#42

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