CLA Committee Chairman tackles Lord Smith on flooding

22 October 2013

The CLA has told the Environment Agency it should transfer the responsibility of major drainage systems on the Somerset Levels and Moors to farmer co-operatives or Inland Drainage Boards (IDBs) if budget cuts mean it is not able to manage and maintain flood defences.

Charlie Ainge, Somerset farmer and Chairman of the CLA's national Business and Rural Economy Committee, met Environment Agency chairman, Lord Smith, on 30 November to show him the flooding encountered by farmers in the South West.

Mr Ainge said: "We asked Lord Smith to consider allowing the IDBs or another appropriate body to take over the work where the Environment Agency is unable to do it. As long as clear objectives are laid out for the drainage boards, I think many of the farmers down here would consider contributing towards the cost rather than having to endure another year like this one.

"We expect flooding down here in the winter months, but the failure to maintain the major drainage channels means the land remains saturated for longer, compounding spring and summer flooding. That means we cannot grow enough quality feed to carry our animals through the winter and we now have to buy in feed just to ensure they get the energy they need."

Mr Ainge farms at Wedmore in Somerset, where 190 acres of his 200-acre livestock farm are under water. He warned Lord Smith that the continued lack of investment in flood and water management systems could lead to livestock farms becoming unviable on the Levels and the Moors.

The meeting with Lord Smith came on the day Defra announced an additional £120million spend on flood defence, but CLA Head of Environment Derek Holliday said the funding will do little to help alleviate problems on the Somerset Levels.

He said: "This money is targeted at capital projects but what is needed in the South West is spending on maintenance to keep the main rivers and drainage channels free so there can be better management of the flow of water."