The importance of agricultural land “cannot be ignored”

05 July 2019

River

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) has urged the Government to consider the strategic importance of land when it comes to the introduction of new measures to protect areas at risk of flooding in England.

Arguing that agricultural land should not only be assessed in terms of its financial value, but also for its key role producing food for the nation and responding to climate change, the CLA highlighted the devastating impact flooding can have on individual farms where it can wreck harvests and damage livestock, buildings and equipment. 

In its formal response to the Environment Agency’s draft National Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy consultation, the CLA which represents 30,000 rural landowners and businesses, also argued that:

  • farmers and landowners should be encouraged and empowered to undertake flood management maintenance on their own land;
  • Environmental Land Management Schemes (ELMS) should be used to incentivise natural flood management, for example by planting trees or allowing a natural river bend to re-establish itself, but that there must be sufficient long-term funding for this; and
  • the focus should be on long-term resilience, as well as immediate flood response and recovery.

Commenting on the consultation response, Susan Twining, CLA Chief Land Use Policy Adviser said: “While focusing on urban areas is understandable, we cannot ignore the strategic importance of agricultural land to crop and livestock production, for example. This is why we have called for a common-sense approach which empowers landowners to devise, build and manage flood management schemes to protect their own livelihoods. This would also free up additional resources for the Environment Agency to support flood and coastal resilience across England.

“We also made the point that as part of the wider discussions on delivering public goods, there is an opportunity to use a future ELMS scheme to support natural flood management whether planting trees, allowing a natural river bend to re-establish itself or encouraging peatland and saltmarshes.”

The consultation also explored coastal flooding and CLA’s response highlighted the devastating long term effect that it can have on previously productive land. Owing to the prohibitive cost of coastal protection, this type of flooding can become permanent, and sea water can devastate crops and render land unusable for years to come.