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More river funding ‘vital’ says NFU

06:00 11 January 2014

Meurig Raymond, National Farmers' Union deputy president, who will be visiting Suffolk this month to attend a water meeting

Meurig Raymond, National Farmers' Union deputy president, who will be visiting Suffolk this month to attend a water meeting

andy catterall

More funding needs to be directed towards river maintenance to ensure flooding problems do not get worse and land in rural areas recovers as quickly as possible, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) says.

NFU deputy president Meurig Raymond said flooding problems over the festive period underlined the need for a balance between Government investment in flood defence serving mainly urban areas and funding for river maintenance.

“Staff from the Environment Agency have done a fantastic job in hugely difficult circumstances, working long hours over the Christmas and New Year period and should be commended for the work they have done. But investment is needed to increase the capacity of the pumps the Environment Agency and the Internal Drainage Boards have available to help clear flood water quickly,” Mr Raymond said.

“Without adequate funding being made available to maintain waterways, flooding problems will only increase. The NFU recognises that the amount of funding available is limited and money has to be spent carefully. But £20million spent annually on river maintenance is not enough to do the job effectively.

“Maintenance is a key issue for farmers as regular periodic works maintains conveyance and capacity within the river system. This means floodwater can return to the river system quickly and reduces the extent and duration of any flooding. If water can’t return to the river system, flooding will extend over a greater area and last longer because the water has nowhere to go.

“While the Government’s announcement of an additional £5m for flood risk maintenance in 2015-16 has been welcome, on its own it cannot make up for many years of reductions in the Environment Agency’s revenue budget which funds its staff, maintenance work and flood warnings. The Environment Agency’s annual flood risk management revenue budget will be nearly £50m less in 2014-15 than it was in 2010-11.”

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