Farmers in East Yorkshire criticise ‘negligence’ as they fight for action over floods

Farmers in East Yorkshire who say their land is regularly getting flooded through lack of maintenance are making another push for action with the help of MPs.

Flooding at Lakes Farm, Scorborough
Flooding at Lakes Farm, Scorborough

Hundreds of acres of farmland has been affected along a five-mile stretch of the upper River Hull between Bethells Bridge and Beverley.

John Duggleby, who farms at Beswick, and has held various positions with the Beverley and North Holderness Internal Drainage Board for 25 years, blamed “total negligence” on the part of the Environment Agency and Defra.

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Mr Duggleby said: “We have been trying to get them to do maintenance for 20 years. There needs to be Government funding.”

Flloding at Lakes Farm, Scorborough

He says the EA needs to tackle a high point at Stoneferry in Hull which is disrupting flow, and also maintain the stretch of the Beverley and Barmston Drain between Beverley and High Flags in Hull “so that it can discharge water as it was designed to do by gravity”.

A breach in the banks of the Old Howe near Foston in 2018 had still not been fixed, which is adding to the problems.

Mr Duggleby added: “When you get all this springwater coming off the Wolds, the river Hull cannot take it and that’s without the surface water from houses and roads.

"This year alone a dozen farmers have had their land flooded. This is having a serious affect on home grown food production.”

A meeting chaired by Beverley and Holderness MP Graham Stuart was held last Friday with farmers, the EA, East Riding Council and the National Farmers Union. The MP was joined by neighbouring MP Sir Greg Knight, Chairman of Hull River Board.

A follow-up is planned for September. Mr Stuart said: “We had a really successful meeting and it is clear that a joint approach is the best way forward. I was delighted to be joined by Sir Greg and farmers in his constituency to help drive momentum on the importance of reducing the effects of flooding that local farmers have been experiencing for several years.”

Paul Stockhill, Area Flood and Coastal Risk Manager, said the funding was aimed at protecting people and houses, not land, and the only way of achieving a solution was to work as a collective.

Fixing the problems would cost tens of millions – but the Agency receives only £11m-a-year in maintenance funding for the whole of Yorkshire.

The farmland affected is in an area drained several hundred years ago to make marsh and carr land productive for cropping. Mr Stockhill said: “Now we are in a position where the flood risk money is allocated on the basis of risk, that is why we have not invested because the benefit isn’t there in terms of houses.”

He said they would have to work with other partners to secure funding, adding: “We have more of a chance of achieving something together if we work as a collective.”