27 April 2015 | Online since 2003



11 February 2014|News

West Lancashire at risk of being next Somerset Levels for the sake of the cost of a takeaway


Unless an Internal Drainage Board is established in the West Lancashire area soon, within the next ten years the catchment is at real risk of flooding to a similar devastating degree as is currently being seen on the Somerset Levels.

For the past two years, the NFU has been the leading voice in trying to set up an Internal Drainage Board (IDB) which would take over much of the maintenance work that has historically been carried out by the Environment Agency (EA). With the EA’s budget squeezed, it has not been able to carry out the level of drainage maintenance required for a number of years. The NFU knows that in total last year, only £20 million was spent across the whole on river de-silting and de-weeding by the Environment Agency.

An IDB would maintain ditches, pumping stations and provide a habitat for wildlife in the catchment. Obviously, a body such as this would come at a cost. A substantial chunk of that would be borne by landowners such as farmers and the rest by local authorities – and there lies the sticking point.

For every business and householder to contribute to the running of an IDB, it would mean an extra charge on council tax, a proposal West Lancashire Borough Council isn’t even prepared to discuss at this present time for political reasons.

Dave Oakes, NFU North West’s flooding expert and farmer liaison officer who lives in Scarisbrick, estimates that the yearly cost to an average homeowner in the West Lancashire area would be similar to that of a takeaway or round of drinks in the pub.

He said: “With the vast majority of the drainage ditches in West Lancashire travelling through highly productive agricultural fields, it has been left to local farmers to educate their local councils and neighbouring businesses about the need for an IDB.

“For too long this has been seen solely as farming’s problem. The daily images in our newspapers and on our TV screens have brought that fallacy into context. We all have a responsibility to manage water sensibly in West Lancashire to prevent highly productive agricultural land, businesses and homes from suffering the same fate as those in Somerset.”

Dave Oakes was brought out of retirement by the EA and NFU in April 2013 because he’d spent the best part of 38 years managing water flow in the Alt Crossens part of West Lancashire. He is 62 years old and worked for the Environment Agency from 1973 until he took early retirement in 2011. He started off as a manual labourer cutting grass on watercourses with a scythe, worked on tractors, excavators and even became a member of a team which wore breathing apparatus to crawl through tight pipes and culverts to search for blockages.

He then became a team leader in 1996 and looked after maintenance teams at Alt Crossens and the Douglas. So it’s fair to say he’s operated at every level of drainage maintenance and can say with confidence that he’s got his hands dirty in the past.

It has been Mr Oakes’ job to formulate a workable plan for the future. As well as appointing Mr Oakes, the NFU has established five Flood Liaison Action Groups (FLAGs) in the North West region. FLAGs are made up of local farmers with the aim of them to run alongside the steering groups which are made up of representatives from local authorities, United Utilities and Natural England.

Alice Unsworth, NFU North West Environment and Land Use Adviser, added: “This is an issue across the whole of the region and we are trying to provide solutions to benefit the whole community. However, one of the main players continues to refuse to come to the negotiating table – West Lancashire Borough Council. In Cumbria, Allerdale Borough Council support an IDB in the Waver Wampool catchment and South Lakeland Borough Council are on board in the Lyth Valley catchment. In the Alt Crossens we have support from Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council but not West Lancashire Borough Council. Do they really want to allow West Lancashire to flood out of fear of making a potentially unpopular political decision?”

According to Defra national statistics, land within the Lower Alt and Crossens represents a tiny 0.1 per cent of England’s total farmed area yet is estimated to produce nearly 2 per cent of the English vegetable and salad crops and around 1.5 per cent of the total English potato crop. The agriculture and horticulture industry is thought to provide employment for 2,554 people on a full time basis in West Lancashire and Sefton across 435 businesses contributing £230 million of Gross Value Added to products grown within the same area.

Download




Comments


No comments posted yet. Be the first to post a comment

To post comment without approval login or register

Display name

Please enter your name

Email (optional)
Comment

Please enter your comment

Post Comment

Your comment submitted successfully.Please wait for admin approval.

Some error on your process.Please try one more time.



Jobs


14 April 2015
Apprentice Dairy Farm Hand
On the job training plus weekly College attendance working towards the Work Based Diploma in Agriculture (intermediate Level2...

11 April 2015
HGV (C+E) Drivers - Carlisle - Milk Delivery Drivers - Days
Duties to include collection of caged milk tets from the dairy for onward delivery to DC's throughout the UK. Silver Arrow, a...

13 April 2015
Herdsperson
A superb opportunity has arisen on our client’s large, mixed farm in Wiltshire for a committed and experienced herdsperson......

16 April 2015
MILK ROUNDS PERSON
WE REQUIRE A MILK ROUNDS PERSON FOR OUR DEPOT IN SPEKE LIVERPOOL. EXPERIENCE AN ADVANTAGE, BUT FULL TRAINING WILL BE GIVEN FO...

24 April 2015
Telecoms Field Sales - B2B
Ensure that you maintain your vehicle and drive safely to appointments informing the Sales Dairy Manager the outcome of each ...



Top stories you may have missed
10 April 2015 | Agri Safety

The permanent eradication of Bovine Viral Diarrhoea [BVD] in Scottish cattl...


10 April 2015 | Dairy

The abolition of milk quotas in Europe on 1st April has resulted in a numbe...


10 April 2015 | Cattle

The top 14 milk producing countries in Europe will increase their productio...


10 April 2015 | News

Matt Ware is the NFU's head of government and parliamentary affairs, based ...


10 April 2015 | Arable

There is a 'desperate need' to improve farmgate returns given low incomes a...


9 April 2015 | Arable

Rapid stem extension, after a slow start to spring, is likely to create spl...


9 April 2015 | Finance

The time has come for landlords to expect to see reductions in farm rents, ...


8 April 2015 | Cattle

Cogent’s reputation as a source of the highest calibre sires has been enhan...


8 April 2015 | Arable

The spread of exotic and aggressive strains of a plant fungus is presenting...


7 April 2015 | Animal Health

The FSA’s new Food Crime Unit wants the industry to share information, some...