COASTAL AND river fl ood defence structures in England could be scrapped to increase fl odplain capacity, the Environment Agency warned this week.
Lower value land on downstream fl odplains will now be allowed to fl ood to prevent more populated areas being inundated.
The Agency this week confi rmed that it was in talks with landowners over compensation deals in areas where the new policy will be introduced first.
The new strategy for flood risk management was outlined in Making space for water, published by the Department for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) last month.
It says protecting low lying agricultural land downstream of urban areas by building flood defences can effectively narrow a river, causing water to back up and flood upstream.
The Agency has identified land on the outskirts of towns like Carlisle in Cumbria and Lewes in Sussex, which flooded in 2004 and 2000 respectively, as areas where downstream defences could be removed.
Until now, the Agency has concentrated on withdrawing some coastal defences. Now it wants to take the same approach to rivers.
In a statement to NCE, DEFRA said: 'In rivers, there are clear benefi s in widening river corridors through areas of high flood risk, although these are often the locations where realignment is most problematic.
'In appropriate circumstances realigned defences can be more effective, and more technically, economically and environmentally sustainable than built sea walls, ' it said.
t continued that implementing this strategy 'could mean anything from withdrawal of maintenance, to breaching defences, to identifying a new line of defences set back from the river, estuary or coastline'.
The Agency added that the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds was interested in buying up some of this land which could revert back to mudflats or salt marshes.
Farmers' representatives opposed the plans to allow agricultural land to flood. National Farmers Union environment advisor Paul Hammett attacked the strategy for putting agricultural land at risk.
'The government is suggesting that the economics of protecting rural areas doesn't stack up. Signifi ant sums of money will be spent on protecting urban areas and environmental assets, but farmlands in areas like the Essex estuaries will be threatened, ' he said.
Ruby Kitching INFOPLUS Visit www. nceplus. co. uk to view the Making Space for Water report and DEFRA's full statement.