Rural businesses challenge flood policy

FLOOD defence policy and water resource management need to be re-assessed in the light of damning predictions from the Government's chief scientific adviser, the regional head of the Country Land & Business Association warned yesterday.

FLOOD defence policy and water resource management need to be re-assessed in the light of damning predictions from the Government's chief scientific adviser, the regional head of the Country Land & Business Association warned yesterday.

Addressing the Sustainable Development Commission conference in London, Chief Scientist Prof John Beddington said the world was heading for a “perfect storm” of soaring demand for food, water and energy by 2030.

The problems of a growing global population coming out of poverty would be exacerbated by climate change, resulting in international food and water shortages in 20 years' time - and increased food and energy prices in the UK.

Nicola Currie, eastern region director of the CLA, said current policies on flood defence - including that of “managed retreat” in some areas - should be reviewed now to mitigate the threats identified by the chief scientist.


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“Surely protection of valuable, productive acres must become part of the equation,” said Mrs Currie. “Can we really afford to lose land which was reclaimed from the sea in a bid to become self-sufficient in food after the last world war?

“Huge public investment went into that reclamation, but the nation appears content to discard all that was achieved in the past .Measures taken now to maintain defences - a stitch in time - will pay off in the future when we are going to need that land.”

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Water management strategies also needed to be reviewed, including the policy of only storing winter rainfall so that the summer rainfall was largely lost.

“We know that river flows are important and understand why summer extraction has been deterred,” said Mrs Currie. “What we need is flexibility so that we are able to use water when it is abundant, no matter the time of year, as we have been arguing.”

She also called for greater government investment in farm reservoirs and for more flexibility within the planning system.

“The eastern region is one of the most important areas of this country for food production, especially of arable crops,” she added. “Prof Beddington's chilling predictions must be acted upon to ensure that our efficient agriculture is not only supported but encouraged to grow and improve.”

Critics of proposals to abandon sections of sea defences on grounds of cost have warned that this approach could involve not only the loss of extensive areas of farmland but also the contamination by salt water of some sources of water for irrigation, effectively putting still more land out of food production.

Earlier this week, the CLA also expressed concern over the possible loss of land alongside river estuaries in Suffolk and Essex under plans to use compulsory purchase powers to create new habitat across the country to off-set the impact on wildlife of the proposed Severn barrage renewable energy scheme.

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