I have to admit that I am rather disappointed with the report. I don’t disagree with what it contains, it is what it omits that is disappointing.
I had higher hopes …. Readers may remember that the Committee called George Monbiot to gives evidence – I blogged on that at the time see here. I said the following about George’s evidence.
“He covered a lot of ground – natural flood plain management, catchment level action, slowing the flow, re-wilding, dam building, beavers, maize cultivation, land use in the uplands etc etc.
He spent quite a bit of time talking about the Basic Payment Scheme’s ‘ineligible features’ scandal and I got the feeling the Committee were very interested in what he said.”
The report does contain a 3 page section on Natural Flood Management (pages 36-38) but this merely reflects back to the reader what the witnesses at the Enquiry actually said. Their conclusion is as follows:-
“The majority of the witnesses we heard from during this inquiry supported natural flood risk management. Some of the pilots demonstrating this approach, including in Pickering, have been successful. We look forward to seeing the results of the pilots in Cumbria at the end of this year and hope that decisions on further roll out will follow soon afterwards. The Government should make sure that funds are available to fund more pilots to continue to make the case for this approach and to protect those places like Pickering which might benefit from a cheaper natural flood management project. However, to roll this out nationally will take time and people want their homes protected today. It is only right then that current flood risk management approaches should continue to be the focus.”
I have written a lot about Natural Flood Management (at Holnicote here for example and here about Taming the Flood) but for it to work it must also include changes in land use. I have written extensively about the flooding problems that maize causes (see here) but this topic is simply not covered in the EAC’s report. The report was supposed to be about co-operation across Government but in reality has only really focussed on the work of the Environment Agency and whether the Treasury / DEFRA give them enough money.
The report hasn’t tackled DEFRA on land use when we know that many of the flooding problems in the Somerset Levels were caused by land use higher up the catchments.
I also recently tweeted about the concerns that the Highways Agency have surrounding maize cultivation in Devon and the impact this has on flooding of the road network and the apparent failure of DEFRA to use their cross compliance rules to halt bad practice and therefore reduce flooding. Co-operation across Government needs to include the Highways Agency!
So going back to the NFU’s tweet of the day (above), they have interpreted the EAC report as a green light to continue spending flood defence money on protecting farmland by dredging and bund maintenance rather than allowing flood plains to flood.
It is undoubtedly a complex and political topic but I am afraid the EAC have missed some of the major points. All is not lost, there are good things in the report and we still await the Report from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee on Flooding which I hope will pick up on some of these issues.