More funding needs to be directed towards river maintenance to ensure flooding problems do not get worse and land in rural areas recovers as quickly as possible, the NFU has said.
NFU Deputy President Meurig Raymond said flooding problems in parts of the country over the Christmas and New Year period had reinforced the need to ensure a balance between Government investment in larger capital flood defence projects that primarily serve urban areas and funding for river maintenance.
“Staff from the Environment Agency have done a fantastic job in hugely difficult circumstances, working long hours over the Christmas and New Year period and should be commended for the work they have done. But investment is needed to increase the capacity of the pumps the Environment Agency and the Internal Drainage Boards have available to help clear flood water quickly,” Mr Raymond said.
“Without adequate funding being made available to maintain waterways, flooding problems will only increase. The NFU recognises that the amount of funding available is limited and money has to be spent carefully. But £20 million spent annually on river maintenance is not enough to do the job effectively.
“Maintenance is a key issue for farmers as regular periodic works maintains conveyance and capacity within the river system. This means floodwater can return to the river system quickly and reduces the extent and duration of any flooding. If water can’t return to the river system, flooding will extend over a greater area and last longer because the water has nowhere to go.
“While the Government’s announcement of an additional £5 million for flood risk maintenance in 2015-16 has been welcome, on its own it cannot make up for many years of reductions in the Environment Agency’s revenue budget which funds its staff, maintenance work and flood warnings. The Environment Agency’s annual flood risk management revenue budget will be nearly £50 million less in 2014-15 than it was in 2010-11.
“The whole of the environment – both rural and urban – is affected by flooding and it is important that money is invested in all areas of flood defence. Many rural areas have been flooded by water that otherwise could have flooded nearby towns and cities. Increasing investment in larger capital schemes that protect urban areas in isolation is not a sustainable solution to tackling the problems of flooding. Adequate funding must be given to waterway maintenance as well to help reduce the threat of flooding to all areas."