East Anglia: Region may take part in rivers pilot aimed at cutting farming red tape

The Environment Agency is piloting a scheme which may take place in the Anglian region

The Environment Agency is piloting a scheme which may take place in the Anglian region - Credit: Archant

The Anglian region is expected to be among a series of pilot areas for a streamlined flood consenting system to be put in place by mid-2015.

The new trials are aimed at cutting red tape for farmers carrying out low-risk watercourse maintenance activities to help reduce flood risk.

Minister for the Natural Environment and Fisheries Richard Benyon has written to stakeholders about the proposals, which will be trialled on main rivers regulated by the Environment Agency in seven pilot areas starting this autumn.

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has welcomed the initiative.

The NFU said it will work with farmers, the Environment Agency, Natural England and Internal Drainage Boards to promote the trials and raise awareness of how to undertake maintenance such as dredging in an effective way which considers the environment.

NFU Deputy President, Meurig Raymond said: “There are many situations where farmers are able to carry out maintenance of watercourses, and we have been calling for a simpler system for them to get consent to do so. I am therefore pleased that the Ministers announcement goes a long way towards delivering that.

“The damage and losses suffered in last year’s floods remain only too clearly in the minds of many farmers. These trials will help those who are in a position to undertake dredging or other maintenance; but it will also be important that Environment Agency funding is available where it is appropriate.”

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The Environment Agency is continuing discussions regarding the location of the pilot areas, but the following have been identified as possible areas: Alt Crossens in Lancashire, River Duckow in Shropshire, River Brue in Somerset, River Idle in Nottinghamshire, West Thames Catchment, East Riding of Yorkshire and the Anglian Region

The final Regulatory Position Statement for the trials is yet to be confirmed by the Environment Agency. However, a draft Statement sets out the proposed situations and rules by which farmers and other landowners would not need a flood defence consent from the Environment Agency when undertaking works on a main river.