Tenant Farmers chief calls for flood defence overhaul

WAKE UP CALL: Stephen Wyrill, national chairman, of the Tenant Farmers Association

WAKE UP CALL: Stephen Wyrill, national chairman, of the Tenant Farmers Association

First published in Farming Darlington and Stockton Times: Photograph of the Author by

THE new chairman of the Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) has called for the setting- up of new Internal Drainage Boards to combat the danger of flooding.

Stephen Wyrill, who farms at Leazes Farm, East Appleton, near Catterick, said river systems had not been properly managed for ten years.

Government had shown reluctance, and cuts to the Environment Agency’s budget had seen it retreat from front-line, flood risk management work for which it has responsibility but no statutory duty.

Speaking when taking up his three year appointment, Mr Wyrill said: “Recent events must serve as a wake-up call to us all. We need to find a new solution if what we have been experiencing becomes a more common phenomenon.”

The TFA has argued that the formation and development of new Internal Drainage Boards (IDBs) should be the way forward.

“Independent of Government and utilising the skills of practical individuals who understand flood risk management and drainage, IDBs have a lot to offer,” he said.

“However, even for IDBs to work effectively the Environment Agency needs to get out of their way to avoid its dead-hand on the regulatory framework causing stumbling blocks to effective operation.”

Mr Wyrill said the first job would be to ensure that ditches, rivers and other water courses have adequate flood capacity. Attenuation ponds and pumping stations also need to be checked.

He said: “Costs should be met through a drainage rate levied not just on those individuals who will be direct beneficiaries of any flood risk management work, but on everyone who contributes to the flood risk in each catchment.

“New developments in high flood risk catchments should also be required to contribute substantially more and ensure that they have their own flood risk management systems in place which do not simply push the problems further down into the catchment.

“Effective management, flexible regulation and adequate funding are all keys to getting this right and the lessons to be learned from the current devastation need to be learned quickly.”

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