A new scheme to remove red tape and help landowners manage the risk of flooding has been announced by Environment Secretary Owen Paterson yesterday.
In recent years wet weather has caused significant flooding in areas such as the River Brue in Somerset. But while river maintenance can make floods less likely in some areas, current rules mean that farmers who want to manage their own watercourses could be put off by bureaucracy.
The new River Maintenance Pilots are designed to see how existing rules can be simplified without damaging the local environment. Currently, landowners have to apply for permission from the Environment Agency before carrying out certain maintenance activities on rivers crossing their land. Under the pilots, farmers and landowners in seven areas in England at risk of flooding will be allowed to carry out work to de-silt watercourses without needing to obtain a consent.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said: “I want to make it as simple as possible for landowners and farmers to carry out work to protect their land.
“Watercourse maintenance can reduce the risk of flooding, enhance the environment and improve water quality. These pilots will make sure that people who want to carry out this kind of work can do so without getting tied up in red tape.
“Environment Agency staff in each pilot area will be on hand to provide advice, and new Good Practice guidance will ensure that all activities take environmental concerns into consideration when maintenance work is carried out.”
Environment Agency Chief Executive Paul Leinster said: “We want to make it as easy as possible for farmers to undertake appropriate maintenance work on rural watercourses, whilst still ensuring that wildlife and the environment are properly protected.
“We look forward to continuing to work together with farmers, environmental groups and others to reduce the risk of flooding.”
Press Release, October 16, 2013