A £2m government funding package will be enough to help recover the uninsurable damage to farms left devastated by summer floods in the Yorkshire Dales and Lincolnshire, a Whitehall official has insisted.
Initially announced after concerted lobbying, the Farming Recovery Fund opens for applications from today. It offers grants of between £500 and £25,000 to cover specific repair costs incurred by flood-hit farmers in parts of North Yorkshire and Wainfleet.
Rural insurer NFU Mutual has warned that it expects the cost of the flood damage to homes and businesses in the Upper Dales to exceed £3m, but a spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “We’re confident this is sufficient funding to help contribute towards the restoration of uninsurable damage caused by this summer’s flooding.”
Farmers have until March 31 next year to apply for a share of the funds via the Rural Payments Agency.
Stuart Roberts, vice president of the National Farmers’ Union, said the opening of the fund will be a relief to affected farmers who are coping with a “massive” clear-up operation.
Flash flooding in Swaledale and Wensleydale on July 30 affected 250 homes, 35 farms and at least 40 businesses, according to Richmondshire District Council, which said it was facing a clean-up bill of its own, of around £250,000.
A council tax discount and business rate relief scheme has been activated by the council to provide financial relief to those affected.
Donations are still being accepted for a separate flood recovery fund managed by the Two Ridings Foundation.
The Government has also pledged up to £5.25m to support wider recovery work in the Dales and in Wainfleet, including road and bridge repairs, while local authorities will be reimbursed for emergency work under the Bellwin scheme.
Grants from the Farming Recovery Fund are available for farm restoration work such as rebuilding dry stone walls, re-cultivating productive land and replacing damaged field gates.
Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers said she would encourage everyone affected by the floods to check what they are eligible to apply for and to submit an application promptly.
Richmond MP Rishi Sunak, who visited those affected in the Dales as the damage started to become clear, said: “Miles of dry stone wall were damaged and in some cases entirely swept away.
“These walls are not just important to farmers, they are also an intrinsic part of the Dales landscape which attracts so many visitors.”
Dorothy Fairburn, northern director of the Country Land and Business Association, said the funding would help farmers and landowners to “re-construct the landscape” and would allow communities and the visitor economy to “re-boot”.