Environment Agency Accused Of 20 Years Of Negligence
By Paul Homewood
More from the Telegraph on the flooding in Somerset.
The head of the Environment Agency has admitted dredging is likely to go ahead in the Somerset Levels to prevent further flooding, amid claims the region has become a “disaster area” due to decades of under-investment.
Lord Chris Smith, chairman of the agency, said that it is “quite possible” dredging will form part of the recovery plan to drain large swathes of land in the south west, but he insisted this was “not a wholesale solution.”
However, critics claim the action is too late and if rivers near the Somerset Levels had been dredged before the storms started, flood plains could have taken hours rather than weeks to drain causing less damage to homes, land and wildlife.
Jean Venables, chief executive of the Association of Drainage Authorities, said it was "very, very urgent" that rivers in the area are dredged to prevent more damage to homes, livelihoods and wildlife.
"It’s a disaster area down there and it could have been avoided if we had actually kept up with maintenance on the rivers," she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
"We’ve got a 20-year backlog of inactivity down there and it is actually very, very urgent that those rivers are dredged.
"We’ve got to invest in these areas. At the moment, the way in which the models work to prioritise the money for investment, it doesn’t go to these areas and it hasn’t done for the last 20 years.
"So we have really got to think very carefully about how we are going to play catch-up."
Properly-maintained flood plains would "drain away within a matter of days and then be ready for the next flood," she said.
As I reported a couple of weeks ago, the rainfall leading up to the floods in this part of the world was not unusual.
As the local MP, Ian Liddell-Grainger, says “This is not a freak act of nature, it is unforgivable negligence.”