Proactive steps must be taken to protect land from flooding

This week the Environment Agency launched an eight-week consultation looking at its new flood strategy. Simeon Disley, partner at Roythornes Solicitors and head of the firm’s water and flood management team, warns that proactive steps must be taken to protect from flooding.

The launch of the Environment Agency’s consultation on its flood strategy is a timely reminder that those at risk, particularly in rural areas, should take proactive steps to protect themselves.

Farmers and landowners should look to take control of their own flood protection as government planning will certainly prioritise areas with higher populations. Consequently, there will be competition between towns and communities seeking public funding in order to improve flood defences. Farmers and landowners in less populated areas must step forward to make their case for the protection of their areas, they cannot expect others to do it for them.

Neighbours also need to collaborate. Flood water has no respect for farm boundaries and those who share a risk in an area should come together to present a combined plan and case for their protection.

Accordingly, farmers and landowners may also need to contribute to the cost of their flood protection as it is not realistic to expect public funds to pay for the entire defence system. Those who are prepared to contribute in kind or in cash will add value to their proposals and be more likely to get public support.

Roythornes recently acted for 14 landowners and four farming tenants who came together to form a partnership with the Witham Fourth District Internal Drainage Board to significantly improve a 5.8 km section of the sea bank around The Wash. As a result, we saw the first substantial improvements to The Wash flood defences since 1982.

By improving flood defences through partnerships between landowners and internal drainage boards, great efficiencies can be achieved. The value for each pound spent can be more than doubled when compared to the standard public procurement methods.

The future will therefore be about demonstrating the importance of the land you are trying to protect and the value for money for the country as a whole. Farmers and landowners should start preparing their best possible cases now.

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