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MPs call for more maintenance of rural flood defences

MPs have told the government to give higher priority to rural land when allocating funding for flood defence maintenance.

The cross party Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee said flood prevention activity such as dredging was often neglected due to lack of funding and the prioritisation of urban space.

Its comments came in a report into the lessons to be learnt from the major floods this winter.

“The recent winter flood relief effort was commendable, but the government must not neglect long-term issues such as improving resilience through regular and sustained maintenance of flood defence assets and watercourses,” said the report.

The committee called for Defra to draw-up fully funded plans to address the current backlog of maintenance work to flood defence assets.

“We urge Defra to revisit its policy for funding allocation to recognise the economic and social value of agricultural land,” it added.

Committee chair Anne McIntosh said: “We have repeatedly called on the government to increase revenue funding so that necessary dredging and watercourse maintenance can be carried out to minimise flood risk, yet funding for maintenance funding remains at a bare minimum.

“Ministers must take action now to avoid a repeat of the devastation caused by the winter floods.”

Environment Agency chairman Chris Smith earlier this year said in an editorial in the Daily Telegraph that resource constraints would not allow both rural and urban areas to be protected.

“Rules from successive governments give the highest priority to lives and homes; and I think most people would agree that this is the right approach,” he wrote.

“But this involves tricky issues of policy and priority: town or country, front rooms or farmland?”

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