Suffolk: Environment Agency axe £1.4m from river clearing budget - despite last year being wettest on record

Flood water

Flood water

THE Environment Agency has been hit by criticism of its spending on clearing rivers and maintenance projects.

Last year saw the wettest year on record in Suffolk, with 784mm (30.87ins) recorded at Wattisham – 40% more than its average yearly figure.

But the EA’s budget for maintaining rivers in the county is expected to be cut from £4.3million to £2.9m for 2013/14.

Large areas of Mid Suffolk were hit by severe flooding last year, including Needham Market.

Wendy Marchant, a district councillor for the town, said: “I think it’s a terrible shame that they are cutting back the agency.

“They have de-silted the River Gipping but I am sure it needs more filtering and maintenance all the time. We would like to be sure that enough measures are in place so people’s homes are not flooded again.

“With the weather we are getting with climate change, we are going to have problems again.”

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Tim Woodward, the regional surveyor for the east for the Country, Land & Business Association, said: “We have seen farmers struggling with their spring crops because the ground is so wet.

“For the farming community, it’s having an effect on the ongoing rotation of crops each year – it’s putting everything back.

“There’s a grave concern about it. Crops have been put back for several months. It’s also a concern for property owners.

“A number of people have phoned in and said the agency is not doing what it used to. You can understand why they cannot do the work, but it’s causing an increased risk of flooding in some cases.”

But the EA said the figures are estimates, with more money set to be allocated for 2013/14.

Mark Johnson from the EA said: “The figures for 2013/14 do not include all the other sources of local funding used to maintain river systems and flood defences.

“The figures also do not show the more collaborative approach that we have adopted, working with a variety of local people, organisations and groups to make our available finances stretch further.”

The EA has also been working with communities in the Alde and Ore and Deben estuaries.