Farmers and landowners need to consider that the way they are managing the countryside is having an impact on flooding, Labour’s minister for the environment has said.
Upland moorland kept deliberately dry for grouse could be leading to problems with water accumulation further downstream, Kerry McCarthy claims.
Her call to rural communities comes as she demands the Government carries out a full-scale review of the country’s ability to cope with flooding, which must also consider natural solutions.
The Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said: “Some people that I’ve spoken to, people locally and people who are expert in this issue, it seems [to them] as though there’s a real issue that the grouse moors - the way they are managed - means that it doesn’t absorb water which has an impact further down.”
Labour will hold a debate on Wednesday in the House of Commons on this winter’s flooding and Ms McCarthy hopes there will be a discussion around natural solutions, including the need to plant more trees and ensuring that rivers are allowed to meander where appropriate.
She will also raise the effectiveness of the Government’s flood committee set up after the Somerset Levels flooding in 2014 and which is headed by Conservative politician Oliver Letwin. It was revealed this weekend the committee has so far met just three times, and Ms McCarthy said she wants to see the body led by someone ‘outside Government machinery’.
She said she agreed with some of the comments made by environmentalist and journalist George Monbiot over the Christmas period, which grabbed national headlines.
He wrote in the Guardian how the Government is subsidising land owners and farmers to drain grouse moors, which meant the flooding in urban areas was inevitable.
He also questioned the work of Internal Drainage Boards that manage water levels in locations across the country.
She said: “We need to get a clear idea what the private sector is doing, what farmers are doing. Certainly when I was in the
Calder Valley, they were talking about the grouse moors.”
She said the picture across the country is ‘fragmented’ without a comprehensive plan.
She said: “People are doing what they can to protect their own land and make that more flood resilient. In Cumbria people were saying that building a barrier had protected a town, but the water is pushed in another direction. So a piecemeal approach just doesn’t work.”