Following a visit to flood-hit areas of Somerset, Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, NFU President Peter Kendall has said Britain needs more resilient and better managed flood defences to protect life and the environment.
Speaking in the wake of two Government announcements to spend £100 million and a further £30 million on flood maintenance and repairs, Mr Kendall said the news was welcomed but that more needed to be done.
“The Government and the Environment Agency must learn the lessons of these devastating floods. We have been here before and recently, in 2007 and 2012. Climate change scientists predict precisely this type of event becoming more frequent in future decades.
“Because of this we need more resilient, better managed flood defences with the capacity to protect life, property and farmland from excessive flooding. We must use all the tools available to us and make dredging a priority.
“Declining maintenance in rivers and watercourses and reducing investment in pumps and infrastructure is reported across the country. It’s not all about Somerset of course, but Somerset is a prime example of two decades of underinvestment.
“We must see a re-balancing of flood defence spending towards maintenance, which has declined by £49 million over last five year, as part of the aim to reduce the severity of flooding.
“We also need to see high quality farmland being given a far higher priority in flood protection. The Government’s policy on flood defence must recognise the importance of food production and the business of farming and any funding provided for recovery needs to reflect this.
“Some of the debate in recent weeks has been about choosing between protecting urban and rural areas. This is an incredibly simplistic, not to mention dangerous, argument when in fact both must be protected and have a role to play in reducing flood severity.”