Beavers alone won’t build Yorkshire’s flood defences, George Eustice – The Yorkshire Post says

EARLY evidence suggests that the return of beavers to some rivers has helped to reduce the risk of flooding, hence why Defra wants to release more of the semi-aquatic mammals into the wild with enhanced laws to protect such creatures and their breeding sites.

What is unclear, however, from early trials is the extent to which beavers, and the natural dams that they build in the water, have reduced the seriousness of flooding – and whether this, alone, is sufficient to protect areas most susceptible to rapidly rising rivers.

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As The Yorkshire Post made clear when it published a 10-point plan in February last year in the wake of a series of devastating floods here, nature has a crucial role to play and Pickering, for example, is now the beneficiary of the Slowing The Flow project that has seen trees and vegetation planted upstream of the town. But the economic and environmental benefits of schemes like this, and plans to create more reservoirs in the Upper Calder Valley to hold back water at times of intense rainfall, need to be considered in the context of river catchment areas in their entirety.

To what extent can beavers play a role in alleviating flooding?

And this is why it is so exasperating, as Environment Secretary George Eustice heralds the return of beavers, that he has failed to initiate the countywide flooding summit that he promised 18 months ago when he visited flood-hit York in February 2020.

Though Defra did finally set up a belated meeting with South Yorkshire stakeholders, it was barely a token effort when those at most risk of floods were expecting a more co-ordinated response. They all know that tokenism is not a flood defence. Does Mr Eustice?

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George Eustice promised a Yorkshire-wide flooding summit when he visited York in February 2020. The Enviironment Secretary has still to initiate the event.