A RURAL-URBAN divide to prioritising flood protection damaging is damaging farmers’ capacity to protect communities from flooding, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said.
The group is urging the Government to equally weight its promised £280m six-year investment in the region’s flood defences towards the countryside, as rural insurer NFU Mutual confirmed that it was now dealing with flood-related claims worth over £40m from its customers across the North of England.
Vast tracts of Yorkshire farmland remains submerged in flood water, with farm infrastructure such as fencing having been washed away and acres of crops destroyed by the deluge. The National Farmers’ Union expects more heavy rainfall over the coming weeks will mean crops cannot be planted this spring.
One flood victim, Richard Bramley, who grows milling wheat on his farm at Kelfield near York, has explained in a video message (featured here) how he has lost 62 acres of his crop - enough milling wheat for 250,000 loaves of bread - as a result of the floods since Boxing Day.
With the cost of the damage stacking up the Government’s Farming Recovery Fund, which provides grants of up to £20,000 to farmers suffering from uninsurable losses, its extension to Yorkshire farmers has been welcomed, yet many farmers are still waiting for lifeblood EU payments to ease the financial pressure - just shy of 51 per cent of Basic Payment Scheme claims have been paid since the start of December.
To avoid suffering flood-related financial pain over and over again, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) said the potential for farmland to protect people, properties and livestock from floods in the future must be realised through incentives for farmers.
Claire Bainbridge, senior rural surveyor at George F White, said: “If farmers and estate owners knew that they could add real monetary value to their land by introducing a raft of flood management measures, it may well serve as an incentive to improve flood defences within the UK.”
Citing the adoption of Integrated Catchment Management which includes planting bog mosses in the uplands to make the ground more absorbent, she added: “Farmers in Yorkshire and Humber have the potential to offer their country a modern day arc that will protect people, properties and livestock from oncoming floods for many years to come. But they can only do this if Government commits the right level of funding and support in all areas, both urban and rural.”
Farmers in Yorkshire and Humber have the potential to offer their country a modern day arc that will protect people, properties and livestock from oncoming floods for many years to come.Claire Bainbridge, senior rural surveyor at George F White
James Copeland, the region’s environment and land use adviser at the NFU, said: “The farming community would say we’re offering a flood service at the moment and some appreciation would be appreciated.
“If the water comes on and goes off the land very quickly and these system are maintained then they are going to be in a positive situation but if their land is used as a floodplain to protect towns and cities, then it must be acknowledged and rewarded. While we have an uncontrolled system we are not going to be able to do it.
“These extreme weather events are happening with such frequency that businesses are not having the chance to build up the resources to protect themselves accordingly.
“With the right systems in the right places we can balance the need to protect communities from flooding in town and cities, and rural areas. At the moment we don’t have a joined up approach.”
MP DEMANDS MORE DREDGING
Richmond MP Rishi Sunak has pressed Environment Agency bosses to consider dredging rivers more frequently to lessen the impact of future flooding.
Addressing the Agency’s chief executive Sir James Bevan at an Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee hearing this week, Mr Sunak said: “There is a widespread perception that there is not enough dredging going on. Nobody on this committee is suggesting that it is the universal solution but it can have a role in alleviating the severity of flooding.”
Sir James said dredging was a “core part of our armoury in tackling flood risk”, adding that it had spent £20m on dredging in the last couple of years.