FARMING groups have welcomed the new long-term plan by the Government to tackle flooding.

The announcement of a multi-billion pound investment by Defra was set out by Secretary of State George Eustice this week in a national Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management (FCERM) Strategy for England.

The NFU is currently developing its own strategy in this area to showcase how farmers can best improve their resilience to water-related risks. The NFU has made clear that farmers and growers need to be at the heart of future flood management policy and properly rewarded for their role in nature-based solutions to flooding.

The NFU has also made clear that the responsibility to carry out and recover from natural flood solutions, such as intentionally flooding farmland, cannot lie solely with the farmer.

NFU deputy president Stuart Roberts said: “We are pleased to see the Government recognise the vital role of farmers in managing floods, as well as the importance of an integrated water management strategy.

“Farmers understand they have a significant role to play in preventing floods reaching towns and cities, but the strategy needs to ensure we have resilient businesses that can withstand these events in the first place and then quickly recover to return to our core business of producing food for the nation."

The Government’s ambitious long-term plan sets out five key commitments, which aim to accelerate progress in better protecting people and property from future flooding.

n Upgrading and expanding flood defences and infrastructure across the country;

n Managing the flow of water to both reduce flood risk and manage drought;

n Harnessing the power of nature to not only reduce flood risk, but deliver benefits for the environment, nature, and communities;

n Better preparing communities for when flooding and erosion does occur;

n Ensuring every area of England has a comprehensive local plan for dealing with flooding and coastal erosion.

The Government’s plan hopes to see the delivery of flood and coastal defences to prevent £32bn in economic damage. The plan also includes £200m for ‘innovative projects’ which relies on the creation of areas to store water during flooding, sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) and there is an emphasis on the use of nature-based solutions to reduce flood risk.

The plan represents a comprehensive, cross-government commitment to increase national resilience to flooding and coastal erosion, including proposals to change regulations and unlock more investment from government and others.

The £5.2 billion capital funding programme announced runs from 2021-27. However, other aspects of the plan will continue further into the future as the national Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management (FCERM) Strategy looks forward to 2100.

CLA president Mark Bridgeman said: “It’s encouraging to see government taking another positive step to help combat ongoing problems with flooding.

“While the pledge focuses on creating new flood and coastal defences to better protect properties, it’s vitally-important that there’s still long-term funding for maintenance of existing flood defence assets, including ring-fenced funding for protection of agricultural land.

“Farmers and land owners often spot problems with flood defences and maintenance requirements but bureaucracy usually thwarts early preventative actions. There should be a simpler system enabling farmers to carry out minor flood defence work on their own property to protect their assets and livelihoods.

“The value from flooding land to protect properties and business should be recognised in future land management agreements and build in the soft engineering solutions of trees and other natural features that slow the water flow and can offer natural flood management alongside the hard engineering.”

The CLA has been lobbying Defra and the Environment Agency on a number of flooding priorities.