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    NFU states that the government must learn from recent flooding disasters

    NewsThursday 06 February 2014
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    Many rural communities have been damaged by the continual flooding that has been breaking out up and down the country and the NFU is saying that the government must learn some ‘important lessons’ from the situation. 
     
    Farmers are willing to play their part in finding the solutions to avoiding and managing flooding, according to Meurig Raymond, the NFU Deputy President. However, he also stated that the backlog of investment that is needed to maintain the nation’s key rivers is clearly the responsibility of public bodies. 
     
    He stated that the Internal Drainage Boards and the Environment Agency were best placed to deliver the levels of maintenance that are so desperately needed. 
     
    “Above all, the country needs to be in a position where flooding can be managed for both urban and rural communities, to minimise the disruption and devastation that is taking place in several regions, affecting our homes, rural communities, businesses and wildlife.” Said Raymond. 
     
    The NFU is not expecting flooding to be prevented during these exceptional events, however, they are expecting the EA to cater for events which are happening more and more frequently. According to the union, the fact that we have flooding after such a draw autumn goes to show that the rivers in this country are very fragile. 
     
    Raymond continued:“For too long there has been a widening imbalance between the defences offered to urban communities verses rural communities, which needs to be addressed. Why is more value placed on urban communities at the expense of rural communities?
     
    “It is not an overly simplistic argument of one versus the other, as the EA’s Lord Smith of Finsbury suggests. We must all do our part to prevent or be better prepared for these kinds of events in the future, but that can only happen if we work together”
     
    He continued to say that whilst there may be a danger of grasping for simplistic solutions, it is clear that dredging the rivers to return them to previous capacity levels has to be a very important part of the solution. 
     
    According to Raymond, dredging the rivers would also have “significantly reduced the extent, duration and frequency with which they’ve occurred in recent years, and significantly aided recovery efforts”. 
     
    He said: “We are encouraged that the government is now moving with urgency to prepare plans for dredging in the Somerset Levels, although this is long overdue.
     
    “However we are surprised that dredging may not start until September. This is, quite simply, too long for those living and working in the Levels to wait and will not give enough time to tackle those problems that have already happened or those to come. But other parts of the country outside Somerset, like the Fens which are below sea level, also need urgent action, across southern England rural communities are experiencing massive disruption because of a backlog of river maintenance.
     
    “As part of Defra learning the lessons, ministers must be more transparent and even-handed over how they allocate flood defence budgets and explain whether red tape is preventing quicker and more effective ways of working.
     
    “Any spending on flood management is welcome, but the current balance between funding for new capital projects and maintaining our rivers and existing defences seems out of step. We need more ongoing maintenance to prevent our rivers getting into the state of those in Somerset and transparency about how money is being allocated and spent. To secure the confidence of the British public the Government needs to provide clear figures on exactly how much is being spent annually on maintenance and how this has changed over the past five years.
     
    “Finally, farmers recognise that they can have a strong role to play in reducing flooding. We hope that this will be supported in the future by government through better regulation being trialled in the River Maintenance Pilots and schemes like Catchment Sensitive Farming.”
     
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